The Bride of Mithras
by: Fl. Valeria Octavia
The second degree of initiation is called 'Nymphus' or the 'Bride' in Mithraism.Its planet is Venus,its objects are a veil,a lamp and a mirror.It is starnge to find such a feminine degree in a Men's cult.The constellation of the degree was probably Spica the wheat ear held by Virgo.This constellation and its planet Venus is what made the feminine images of the degree.The reliefs of Cupid and Psyche found in Mithraea and as we can see from Apuleius' work The Golden Ass,the myth was considered an initiatory story which goes well with the symbolism of the Nymphus degree.The myth tells a story of self discovery and all the devices of the Nymphus degree have a similar theme.
The diadem or veil relate to the veiling of the bride and his task was to uncover the secrets as Nymphus also means 'secret'.The Nymphus sought the internal world which is hidden behind a veil.He carries a lamp to shed light and this goes well with the brightness of Venus in the heavens.Nymphus also carries a mirror the symbol of self examination.The Nymphus by the light of teaching (the lamp) would look into himself (the mirror) and see himself as he really was rather than how he wished to be seen (the veil).
The Nymphus learned Mithrasian theology and the responses required by ritual.They seemed to have formed a sacred chorus at least at Dura-Europas where 16 of them portrayed in a single relief.A text by Maternus can be interpereted to refer such a chorus.If the correct translation is 'sing' then it reads...'Sing Nymphus,hail Nymphus,hail new light!'.This new light included the light of knowledge.At this stage the inner secrets of the Mithras almost certainly were not totally revealed.