This week’s Inspirational Art is a departure. It doesn’t a cover a single artist but a single subject. It is also historical more than fantastic.
Mithras was the subject of a mystery cult common in the Roman Legions during the Imperial period. Also know as “Mysteries of the Persians” it first appears in Rome in the first century AD. While the figure of Mithras carries a Persian name it is open to debate if this religion was imported from Persia or created in Rome out of bits and pieces of Persia and other lore.
The image above is called the tauroctony and was the central image of Mithratic sites. The image depicted is the ritual slaying of a bull although the meaning is open to debate (you’ll see this phrase a lot in studying the Mithratic Mysteries). The interior of his cloak is lined with the cosmos and it is commonly believed that the symbolism is astrological. The image below is of the other common Mithratic iconography, the banquet. It portrays Mithras feasting with the Sun on the hide of the slaughtered bull.
Mithraism, along with the other mystery cults, offers a grand pattern for Dungeon Masters to add a unique religious element to their game. One reason we know so little of the religion is the nature of mystery cults. They have multiple levels of initiation with secrets taught at each level, not unlike some modern groups like the Masons. With Mithraism we even have the names of the levels: Corax (raven), Nymphus (bridegroom), Miles (soldier), Leo (lion), Perses (Persian), Heliodromus (sun-courier), and Pater (father).
Imagine a variant cleric class with spell lists and powers keyed to what little we know of Mithras (or some other mystery religion) using the initiation stage names as level titles and powers that evoke the name.