Cretan Musings: Inspired by Goddess Pilgrimages
Musings inspired by the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete on ancient Crete, the Goddesses of Crete, Societies of Peace, and the rebirth of the Goddess in contemporary culture, by Carol P. Christ, author of Rebirth of the Goddess.
Is Goddess feminism an old religion or a new creative synthesis? Can it be both? Goddess feminism draws on the feminist affirmation of women’s experiences, women’s bodies, and women’s connection to nature; the feminist critique of transcendent male monotheism as the symbolic expression of male domination of women and nature; and 19th and early 20th century discussions of Goddesses and matriarchy.
Most Goddess and other spiritual feminists have experienced Wiccan rituals, which are often simply called Goddess rituals. For many of us, elements of Wiccan practice strike a chord of knowing, while other aspects seem odd or strange or even just plain weird. What are the origins of Wiccan ritual? Are some its roots to be found in male secret societies that in no way promoted "the full humanity of women"?
While I was in Crete on the Goddess Pilgrimage teaching about and experiencing a Society of Peace where violence and domination were neither celebrated nor encouraged, another war broke out in Iraq, breaking my heart, breaking all of our hearts—yet again. When will we ever learn, oh when will we ever learn?
I am sometimes asked why I continue to lead the Goddess Pilgrimages to Crete after more than 20 years. I am also asked why I don’t lead pilgrimages to other parts of Greece where Goddesses were also worshipped. One of the answers to these questions is that in Crete I am not simply teaching about the existence of Goddess worship, but also about the possibility that cultures can live without celebrating violence, war, and domination.
For many people the idea that a relatively “advanced” civilization could exist without violence and war is considered to be a romantic fantasy, a dream of a golden age that never existed. This is the “party line” in the academy today—as it always has been.
Ariadne. May have been a name of the Goddess of pre-patriarchal Crete. The ending “ne” signifies that Ariadne is not of Greek or Indo-European origin and thus predates the later Greek myths.
Ariadnian. The name I have given to the Old European pre-patriarchal culture of Crete, from arrival of the Neolithic settlers from Anatolia c.7000 BCE to the Mycenaean invasion c.1450 BCE. Arthur Evans named the Bronze Age (c.3000-1450 BCE) culture of Crete “Minoan” after King Minos of Greek mythology, son of Zeus and Europa, husband of Pasiphae, father of Ariadne, whose gift of the secret of the labyrinth to Theseus led to the downfall of her culture. Evans assumed that Minoan Crete was ruled by a King.
“The error of anthropomorphism” is defined as the fallacy of attributing human or human-like qualities to divinity. Recent conversations with friends have provoked me to ask in what sense anthropomorphism is an error.
The Greek philosophers may have been the first to name anthropomorphism as a philosophical error in thinking about God. Embarrassed by stories of the exploits of Zeus and other Gods and Goddesses, they drew a distinction between myth, which they considered to be fanciful and false, and the true understanding of divinity provided by rational contemplation or philosophical thought. For Plato “God” was the self-sufficient transcendent One who had no body and was not constituted by relationship to anything. For Aristotle, God was the unmoved mover.
Jewish and Christian theologians adopted the distinction between mythical and philosophical thinking in order to explain or explain away the contradictions they perceived between the portrayal of God in the Bible and their own philosophical understandings of divine power. While some philosophers would have preferred to abolish myth, Jewish and Christian thinkers could not do away with the Bible nor did they wish to prohibit its use in liturgy.
Although writing in patriarchal Greece from a patriarchal perspective, Hesiod said in hisTheogony or Birth of the Gods that Gaia or Earth alone was the mother of the Mountains, Sky, and Sea. With the male Sky she gave birth to the next generation of deities known as the “Titans,” who were overthrown by Zeus. Hesiod’s was a “tale with a point of view” in which “it was necessary” for the “forces of civilization”–for him represented by warrior God and rapist Zeus–to violently overthrow and replace earlier conceptions of the origin life on earth and presumably also to overthrow and replace the people and societies that created them.
With the triumph of Christianity in the age of Constantine in the 4th century AD, Christus Victor replaced Zeus in the cities, while the religion of Mother Earth continued to be practiced in the countryside. Over time, many of the attributes of Mother Earth were assimilated into the image of Mary, and priests began to perform rituals earlier dedicated to Mother Earth, such as blessing the fields and the seeds before planting. In the Middle Ages “the Goddess” re-emerged within Western Christianity in devotion to the Virgin Mary, the female saints, and figures such as Lady Wisdom, at the same time that the history of the Goddess was being erased....
Scholars continue to imagine that bull-leaping games in ancient Crete must have been about power over and domination of a very dangerous animal. Watch this video of a woman with her bull friend and weep for their ignorance.
"What seems to me even more significant are the ideas behind bull-leaping: the conception of the bull as an adversary, the need to prove superior human skill, the opposition between man and nature. . . If . . . the idea is that the bull is an adversary to be hunted or outwitted, as I have suggested, then it pertains to a domain which belongs exclusively to the male sphere." Nanno Marinatos, Minonan Religion
"As in Egyptian and Near Eastern bull cults, Minoan bull-leaping gave expression to the tension that underlies man's somewhat tenuous mastery of nature, reaffirmed each time human triumphs over animal. Not coincidentally such cults flourish in societies as they become increasingly stratified, as the affirmation of human prowess serves by analogy as an affirmation of social order." Jeremy McInerney, "Bulls and Bull-leaping in the Minoan World"