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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in knossos

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Taking Myth Literally: How it trips us up

All my life, I've heard people complain about the Christians who take the stories in the Bible literally rather than as allegory or symbolic storytelling. A few days ago, I realized that Pagans sometimes do the same thing, and I think they probably have for centuries, right back into ancient times. Case in point: the Labyrinth.

The Greeks, who are ancient to us but who lived centuries later than Minoan civilization, figured that the Labyrinth must have been an actual physical structure of some sort. And they assumed that the Minoan inventor/smith god Daedalus, whom they viewed as a mortal man, had built it. The Greek historian Herodotus, who lived a solid millennium after the fall of Minoan civilization, wrote about a huge temple building in Egypt with hundreds of rooms and winding passageways, and he called it a labyrinth (yes, it's a real thing - archaeologists have found it). Then, when Sir Arthur Evans unearthed the ruins of the Minoan temple complex at Knossos a century ago, he was sure he had found the original Labyrinth, the famed home/cage of the Minotaur, built by Daedalus.

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  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Lovely - we just worked that myth at Reclaiming's California Witchcamp -

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Ancient Crete Was No Utopia

One of the dangers of having an ancient civilization as the focus of our spirituality is the tendency to view that culture through rose-colored glasses. That’s especially tempting when it comes to ancient Crete and the Minoan civilization that flourished there in the third and second millennium BCE.

There are so many positive aspects of Minoan culture: Women had high status and the Goddess was revered. Minoan cities and towns had paved streets, enclosed sewers, and flush toilets. The Minoans appear not to have had any sort of military, choosing instead to invest all their energy and wealth into what was probably the largest merchant fleet in the Mediterranean at the time, so their society was prosperous and relatively peaceful.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Minoan Midsummer: Layers of Religion

Religion isn’t a static thing. We don’t invent a religion once and leave it as is for centuries. Cultures change, people change, and spiritual practice changes, too.

Minoan civilization lasted for centuries. Just the “palace” periods, the times when the big temple complexes were being built and rebuilt, lasted about 500 years. Minoan civilization as a whole lasted more than two millennia. And during that time, the spiritual practice in ancient Crete changed and grew.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
A toast to the Minoans!

It can be hard to figure out what kinds of rituals and traditions people of the past had, especially if we don't have any written records of them. But sometimes art can help. The image at the top of this post is part of the Camp Stool fresco from Knossos, the largest of the ancient Minoan cities. It shows a banqueting scene that includes ritual toasting, a common activity in many societies from that time. Here's a reconstruction of the whole fresco, with two rows of people participating in toasts and possibly libations (poured offerings) as well:

  

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How history changes: The Minoans and their neighbors

History changes, I'm telling you. OK, the things that actually happened way-back-when don't really change, but our interpretation of them sure does. It's amazing how much our understanding of ancient Minoan culture has changed in the century or so since Sir Arthur Evans first uncovered the ruins of the temple complex at Knossos.

For instance, Evans was caught up in the ancient Egypt craze that had been bubbling along for decades as early archaeologists began uncovering Egyptian artifacts and translating Egyptian hieroglyphic texts. He considered Egypt to be the high civilization of the ancient world. So when he discovered that the Minoans - who flourished at about the same time as Old and Middle Kingdom Egypt - had complex architecture, paved roads, enclosed sewers, and other markers of a 'proper' civilized society, he assumed they had borrowed it all wholesale from Egypt.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Sealed with a ... seal

When I was a kid my mom used to write my name in permanent marker on the tag inside my jacket so everyone would know it was mine. We monogram pillowcases and purses; we register the serial numbers of electronics with the manufacturer. We sign deeds to homes and titles to cars. There are many, many ways to identify things as 'ours' these days, but have you noticed that they all involve writing?

In ancient Crete, most people couldn't write. Sure, they had a writing system, the famous-but-still-undeciphered Linear A (and a hieroglyphic script to go along with it, also still undeciphered). But as was common in the ancient world, only the scribes and perhaps a few wealthy people knew how to write. Writing simply wasn't necessary for most people in their daily lives. But it was necessary for the big temple complexes - they had to keep track of all the donations people made, how much each plot of farmland and orchard produced every year, and so on. So they wrote things down on clay tablets and probably also on papyrus as well, though none of the perishable papyrus has survived as far as we know (I'm still hoping for a secret cache in a sealed jar somewhere). But the Minoans also did the ancient version of writing your name on your jacket tag: They used seals.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Are those things really horns?

While the labrys (the double-bladed axe) is certainly iconic of Minoan civilization, so is another symbol-cum-ritual-object: the sacred horns. (See the image at the top of this blog post.) Found on the rooftops of the temple complexes and peak sanctuaries of ancient Crete as well as in the frescoes and other art, this unique symbol was christened the Horns of Consecration by Sir Arthur Evans a century ago. But are they really horns? And even if they are, what do they stand for and how were they used?

Over in Ariadne’s Tribe, we’ve been discussing this issue for quite a while. One issue we’ve noticed is that the sacred horns don’t look at all like real cow or bull horns.

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