I was searching for an answer to the mystery that was in the Greek Mysteries. Harrison provides the answers. Prolegomena provides a very detailed account of the Mysteries that are rooted in worship of the the Chthonic (Earth) Gods that preceded the Olympian deities. The reading level of this book is probably the most difficult I have ever experienced in a book that I am reading purely for pleasure. You must have a burning interest in the field of ancient Greek religion to be able to appreciate this book for the great work it is.
Although published in the early 1900s and outdated in certain areas, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion is still an essential read for anyone interested in Greek Religion. Perhaps the best description of the book would be to call it the Greek Golden Bough.
In this classic work, Harrison sought to uncover the primitive substratum of Greek religion, so rather than focusing on the
Olympian deities, she spends the better part of the book discussing ghosts, 'demons', and the chthonic deities. The religious landscape that she illuminates is therefore nothing like the cheery and rational world of the Olympians. The dark, the creepy and the uncanny tend to predominate.
The book is very well-written, and the author's fascination with her material is infectious. I found it so powerful a reading experience that I can only describe Prolegomena in terms of a kind of anthropological prose poetry. Although its ostensible topic is a rather specialized and obscure field of enquiry, one comes away from the book with a feeling of having gained a deeper insight into that most general of topics, the human condition.
I have to agree with the other reviewer who emphasizes that this is not a book for those completely unfamiliar with ancient Greek religion. Moreover, parts of it might be frustrating and tedious for readers without knowledge of the ancient Greek language, since Harrison is constantly engaged in the elucidiation and discussion of Greek religious terminology.
All in all, an unforgettable book that, unlike most academic studies, is a piece of great literature.