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in the classical world was generally a casket, used for example to hold unguents or jewels. More specifically, in the Mystery cult
Mystery religions, sacred Mysteries or simply mysteries, were religious cults of the Greco-Roman world, participation in which was reserved to initiates....
, a cista mystica
(literally "sacred chest") is a basket or chest used to house snakes. Cistae mysticae were used in the initiation ceremony of the cult of Bacchus, or Dionysus
Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology. His name in Linear B tablets shows he was worshipped from c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks: other traces of Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan Crete...
, as well as an early gnostic sect called the Ophites
The Ophites or Ophians were members of a Christian Gnostic sect depicted by Hippolytus of Rome in a lost work, the Syntagma....
. Cistae mysticae appear on ancient Roman and Greek coins.