Temple to Mithras, Carrawburgh

The mithraeum, Carrawburgh


Temples to the god Mithras, or mithrae, were common amongst the Roman Legions. Wherever they went, they were sure to erect a temple to this Persian deity. Sacred rites, always conducted in near darkness, involved the initiation and ‘raising’ of members of this cult from one of the seven grades to the next. Central to this worship was the sacrifice of a bull, and special chambers were constructed to allow for this event.

Here we see part of a tiny mithraem just south of Hadrian’s wall near what was the Roman fort of Brocolitia (now Carrawburgh). The columns you can see are concrete replicas – the originals having been removed for display elsewhere.

I always think of Kipling when I see a temple or votive carving dedicated to this god, beloved of the Legions. Several of the short stories in ‘Puck of Pook’s Hill’ and ‘Rewards and Faries’ are centred on The Wall and involve characters who are devotees of Mithras. In some ways there are echoes of Mithranism in the various Masonic rites, with their initiation and ‘raising’ and secret methods of identifying fellow-initiates. It is no surprise, therefore, to learn that Rudyard Kipling, who wove Mithranism into some of his stories, also wrote others with a Masonic theme, or that he was, himself, a Mason.

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