This school is first observable under the rule of Peisistratus at Athens in the 6th century B.C. Its doctrines are founded on two elements: the Thraco-Phrygian religion of Dionysus with its enthusiastic orgies, its mysteries and its purifications, and the tendency to philosophic speculation on the nature and mutual relations of the numerous gods, developed at this time by intercourse with Egypt and the East, and by the quickened intercourse between different tribes and different religions in Greece itself.
Moreover, under piaculum are confused purification, propitiations and expiations; Smith's contention that purifications, whose magical character he recognizes but interprets as late, are not sacrificial, is far from conclusive.
The Hindus also regard the dog as unclean, and submit to various purifications if they accidentally come in contact with it, believing that every dog is animated by a wicked and malignant spirit condemned to do penance in that form for crimes committed in a previous state of existence.
In fact, the Persian religion throughout all its multitude of purifications, observances and expiations was a constant warfare against impurity, death and the devil.
They are to all appearance the work of a school of priests, who, after the destruction of the Temple in 586 B.C., began to write down and codify the ceremonial regulations of the pre-exilic times, combining them with an historical narrative extending from the Creation to the establishment of Israel in Canaan; and who completed their work during the century following the restoration in 537 B.C. The chief object of these sections is to describe in detail the leading institutions of the theocracy (Tabernacle, sacrifices, purifications, &c.), and to refer them to their traditional origin in the Mosaic age.
As to the manual rites of the daily cult, all that can here be said is that incense, purifications and anointings with various Oils played a large part; the sacrifices consisted chiefly of slaughtered oxen and geese; burnt offerings were a very late innovation.
The orgies or mysteries were open to all, freemen or slaves, who had duly performed the preliminary purifications, and secured to the participants salvation and remission of sins.
A collection of oracles, a theogony, an epic poem on the Argonautic expedition, prose works on purifications and sacrifices, and a cosmogony, were attributed to him.
Following the fashion of the pagan mysteries in which men were only permitted to gaze upon the sacred objects after minute lustrations and scrupulous purifications, Christian teachers came to represent the Creed, Lord's Prayer and Lord's Supper as mysteries to be guarded in silence and never divulged either to the unbaptized or to the pagans.
Only so far as we can get away from the modern view that a person's name is a trifling accident, and breathe the atmosphere which broods over ancient religions, can we understand the use of the name in baptisms, exorcisms, prayers, purifications and consecrations.