It is good that Kortoso has brought up this thread again. Much information has been given on the religion of Mitra, but certain things can be added or reiterated when necessary.
I think it is accepted by most that Hyborian Mitraism is basically inspired from Christianity (plus the ''Star Rover'' influence of which I was totally unaware), especially as it was in the Middle Ages. Again, it is not an absolute imitation. There are numerous similarities here:
- The tenets of this creed include forgiveness and compassion as one can judge from Arus' preachings. Honest, hard work is also promoted by the teachings of Mitra, the reason for ''the power and splendor'' of the Hyborians (what Max Weber would call ''Protestant ethics'').
- The efforts for progress include an attack on superstitions and fearful legends, as one can surmise from the fear of the unknown by the Aquilonian soldiers in Westermarck as well as other cases where the civilized Hyborians are shaken by the sudden appearance of the unexplained. Still, the faithful accept the existence of a few supernatural elements like demons and magic and possibly, Mitra's miracles (if they are actually perceived as such).
- If necessary, the priests (at least some of them) are able to use magic (a form of apotropaic magic probably) as noted in THotD. In Christianity some saints can be considered to have used such powers. However, there are a few rare rotten apples like Orastes who end up delving in dark sorceries (a strong medieval touch in this).
- The priesthood also includes oracles. Therefore, certain ''clean'' forms of divination are acceptable and the supplicants may even receive messages directly or indirectly from the Big Boss up high (like Yasmela in BC). This sounds a bit classical (especially the term ''oracle''), but the process is otherwise unrelated and closer to a Christian sort-of revelation.
- The high priests have a certain amount of authority beyond spiritual matters. Nabonidus and the unnamed archpriest in TPitS who dwells in the royal palace are two such examples.
- Saints are included in this religion. Epemitreus could very well be considered a saint (and of the highest importance at that), but it is possible that in his first Conan tale Howard had not yet formulated the framework of the Mitraist creed. Hence the epithet ''Sage'' instead of ''Saint''. This is speculation, but I don't think it is improbable. If anything, Epemitreus' action in TPitS is very reminiscent of Christian saints' interventions as described in religious texts and medieval chronicles. And he has a creature as his emblem, the phoenix, just like many important Christian saints have their own.
- Priests have extensive training in a number skills, like some Christian counterparts (though Arus in THA appears truly phenomenal).
- Mitra is represented as a ''patriarchal'' figure (the descriptive word does not seem accidental) just like the Father (although without a Son or Holy Ghost), but the actual image of the deity is unknown.
- Mitra is omnipresent and all-knowing.
- Mitra can be angry towards worshippers for their sins, although the specific reaction of the Nemedians in THotD may very well be attributed to Xaltotun's sorcery.
- There is a heaven, a purgatory and obviously, a hell.
- Conversion is promoted and there are overzealous or fanatic preachers to be found, but probably not to a great extent. The old Hyborian faith of Bori & company is to be abandoned (Gunderland is the most recent known case).
- Active enmity towards Set (represented by the serpent/snake), the archetype of evil and his minions. The creed does not seem dualistic, since that would imply belief in equality/balance of power between the two gods (actually Set is perceived more as an ''archdemon'', according to Epemitreus). However, it is not at all clear whether the punishment of black magic practicioners is instigated by the priesthood or the state. Other heretical cults though (those that are considered dangerous, like Asuran sects), are also treated with hostility, but the faithful will not expose themselves needlesly to dark sorceries such as those contained in the Asuran funeral boats. However, they may succeed to officially ban these cults.
Now, there are some differences to be taken into consideration:
- The Mitraic religion, while not accepting as equal, does not discount the existence of other deities (with the exception of Bori-worship). Promoting the worship of Mitra primarily among the Hyborian nations, this is basically a henotheistic creed.
- There does not seem to be an all-Hyborian organization of the priesthood. At best, they might be organized along national lines.
- Mitraism does not seem to dominate secular life and activities to the extent that medieval Christianity had. For example, the great bell of Tarantia (and instruments such as bells play an important role in these societies) has been placed in the Citadel (a secular building) and not in the temple of Mitra. Spires are not described as an exclusive element of temples and they might possibly be found in secular buildings as well.
- While there is an image of the deity in a temple, the decoration is simple by choice (on the other hand, this might evoke a Protestant church).
- The priesthood does not appear to have a standard code for vestments. The red garments of Nabonidus are probably a private choice, hence the nickname ''Red Priest''.
Kortoso has composed a nice list of details on this religion straight from the yarns, while others have added some more. I may have repeated a few here.
Edited by constantine, 15 February 2012 - 06:12 PM.