Friday, March 13, 2009

Mithras & Sol Invictus ("the unconquered sun")

In 270 AD, the popularity in the Roman Empire of the Mithraic Mysteries and Mithraism led to Emperor Aurelian's establishment of Sol Invictus ("the unconquered sun") as the Empire's official religion. Mithra, or Mithras, was the Persian sun god, and his worship was very popular throughout the Roman Empire for hundreds of years. In 274 AD, Emperor Aurelian established December 25th, the winter solstice (the shortest solar day of the year under the Julian calendar), as the day the goddess Cybele, the Queen of Heaven, gave birth to the sun, Mithras.

The yearly rebirth of Mithra was viewed as a yearly renewal of the Roman Empire. Mithra, by the way, was born on December 25, of a virgin. His birth was witnessed by shepherds and magicians [magi]. Mithra raised the dead and healed the sick and cast out demons. He returned to heaven at the spring equinox and before doing so had a last supper with his 12 disciples (representing the 12 signs of the zodiac), eating mizd, a piece of bread marked with a cross (an almost universal symbol of the sun). Sound familiar?

Between 320 or 353 C.E., during the reign of Emperor Constantine, the Church decreed that December 25 would become the standard day of observance for the birth of Christ, since this date had long been recognized in antiquity as the return of the sun. Christmas, during the early centuries, was the most variable of the Christian feast days, and was often confused with the Epiphany, and celebrated in the months of April and May. Pope Julius I, in the fourth century commanded a committee of bishops to establish the date of the nativity of Jesus. December 25 (the day of Sol Invictus, the invincible sun) was decided upon. Not coincidentally, that is the day when the "pagan world celebrated the birth of their Sun Gods-Egyptian Osiris, Greek Apollo and Bacchus, Chaldean Adonis, Persian Mithra-when the Zodiacal sign of Virgo (the sun is born of a virgin) rose on the horizon. Thus the ancient festival of the Winter Solstice, the pagan festival of the birth of the Sun, came to be adopted by the Christian Church as the nativity of Jesus, and was called Christmas" (Crosbie). The church found itself:

By the end of the fourth century the whole Christian world was celebrating Christmas on that day, with the exception of the Eastern churches, where it was celebrated on January 6. The choice of December 25 was probably influenced by the fact that on this day the Romans celebrated the Mithraic feast of the Sun-god (natalis solis invicti), and that the Saturnalia also came at this time.

Further, according to Annie Besant:

He is always born at the winter solstice, after the shortest day in the year, at the midnight of the 24th December when the sign Virgo is rising above the horizon; born as this Sign is rising, he is born always of a virgin, and she remains a virgin after she has given birth to her Sun-child as the celestial Virgo remains unchanged and unsullied when the Sun comes forth from her in the Heavens. Weak, feeble as an infant is he, born when the days are shortest and the nights are longest....(qtd. in Bailey)

The connection to the sun as a solar deity, the light and soul of the world, when it is reborn at the winter solstice, became the birthday of Christ, and he is but one manifestation of many ancient archetypal savior deities.

source: Andrew A. Anissi

The Secret Sun: Mithras Rising: Utu and the Cross of Light
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