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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Minoan Crete
Newly-Discovered Linear B Tablet Hymns Wine Goddess

This hymn to a previously-unknown goddess was discovered among a trove of Linear B tablets unearthed at Phaistos, Crete, in 2017.

It is believed to have formed part of the goddess's cultic liturgy celebrating the autumn grape harvest.

 

Hail to Retsina

(Tune: Roll Out the Barrel)

 

Hail to Retsina,

goddess of vino with pine.

Hail to Retsina,

fruit of the tree and the vine.

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Two Blades: Minoan ritual labryses and practical tools

The labrys is one of the most iconic symbols of Minoan civilization. The two-bladed axe shape evokes ideas ranging from bloody human sacrifice to butterflies in a spiritual garden. I have my own ideas about what the labrys means to me, and may have meant to the Minoans as well.

One thing I've noticed, though, is that a lot of people use the term "double axe" to refer to these artifacts, conflating them with practical tools. But they're not the same thing.

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Weight is an important part of a useful ax, not just for strength. A ceremonial ax would not need weight. I have never seen a bu
“Some Day We'll Have Sacred Dances Again”

“Some day we'll have sacred dances again.”

When my friend Doc said this to me more than 20 years ago, his tone was wistful.

Today, decades later, though we may not quite be there yet, we're closer, closer, to the day that he foresaw.

 

In 1890, avant-garde French composer Eric Satie (1866-1925) published a mysterious, haunting piano piece that he titled Les Gnossiennes.

The word is Satie's own coinage. What he meant by it is unclear. At least some commentators have derived it from Knossos—in Latin, Gnossus—the First City of Minoan Crete. If so, it would mean either “the Knossian Women” or “the things (fem.) of Knossos.”

American dancer-choreographer Ted Shawn (1891-1972) read a Minoan reference in the term. Accordingly, he choreographed a dance for solo male dancer to Satie's music that presented—in Shawn's own words—“a priest of ancient Crete going through a ritual at the altar of the Snake Goddess.”

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Are we ecstasy deprived?

There are many aspects of the ancient world that I’m happy to do without: the danger of infection in an era before antibiotics; the difficulty of communicating over long distances at anything other than a snail’s pace; the lack of sanitation and running water in many places (though the cities of ancient Crete did have well-planned sewer systems). So yes, it’s good that we have left some things behind. But in our progress, we have also left behind something beneficial, something the human spirit needs: ecstasy.

I’ve recently been reading Belinda Gore’s book Ecstatic Body Postures and working with some of the postures she describes. This is an extension of the trancework I’ve done for years, and it relates to my activities with the Minoan salute and other gestures the Minoans used in ritual to induce trance states. (And yes, I recommend the book.) One thing that struck me as I was reading Ms. Gore’s book was her comment that the modern world is in a state of what she calls ‘ecstasy deprivation.’ If that’s true, it would explain an awful lot.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Bull Dance

Our Minnesota weather's been lushly Mediterranean of late, so naturally (such is the life of the wandering scholar) I've been thinking about bull-leaping.

I'm wondering if maybe—just maybe—the scholars have got it wrong.

Admittedly, my knowledge of the literature on the subject is not exhaustive. Still, on the basis of information available (to me, at any rate), I have the impression that much, if not most, current scholarship assumes that what we see depicted in Minoan art—what Mary Renault so charmingly calls the Bull Dance—is a sport, if perhaps a sport with religious overtones. Discussion tends to center on whether such a sport would actually have been physically possible or not.

I am given to understand that the scenes of bull-acrobatics that we see—on the golden ring-seal shown above, for example—are simply not possible; that bulls gore sideways rather than upwards, as the leaping scenes would imply. Contemporary athletes have been unable to duplicate the classical frontal bull-leap shown in Minoan art.

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  • Wendilyn Emrys
    Wendilyn Emrys says #
    Europa; Minotaur; & Pasiphae's luring of the Bull are all possible mythological memories of the bull dance.
  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry says #
    I'm totally with you about the need for a mythological basis for bull leaping. It must have been inspired by some portion of the m
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    My thanks to you both: I was hoping to hear from people with more personal knowledge of the subject than this son of the suburbs c
  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry says #
    BTW some of my information comes from animal trainers whose bulls appear in movies and commercials. Bulls are quite trainable and
  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry says #
    Steven, I love your thoughts on this subject. Having grown up on a farm, I can tell you, a bull calf that is used to being handled
Ariadne was just a girl and other urban legends of antiquity

We like to think of the gods as having always existed, time out of mind. In one sense they are timeless, of course, but in another sense they are closely linked to the cultures and societies of specific eras. It’s important to know when each deity ‘showed up’ and in what culture they did so, in order to understand which versions of the myths are the original ones and which are later alterations.

That’s right, later cultures came along and changed the earlier versions of myths, in most cases because they were taking over a society and wanted to downplay or even demonize its deities in favor of their own. You may be familiar with the way the writers of the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible) depicted Asherah, Ba’al and other Middle Eastern deities as evil demons. You may also have heard about the ways the medieval Christian church condemned the European Pagan gods as evil spirits in the cases where they couldn’t manage to transform them into local saints. Well, these kinds of propaganda weren’t invented by the Judeo-Christian world; they’ve been going on as long as there have been people and pantheons.

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Who were the Minoans' neighbors?

A few weeks back I had a lovely chat with Goddess Spirituality leader Karen Tate on her radio show. We talked about Minoan Paganism in particular and the ancient Minoans in general. One issue that came up in the conversation was where, in the timeline of the ancient world, the Minoans fit. Many people seem to think they came after the Greeks and copied much of the Greek pantheon, but the truth is actually the other way around. All those ancient cultures are so far removed from us in time that it can be difficult to get a mental picture of how they all fit together. So I thought I’d tease out some of the details and help you picture the world of the ancient Minoans – not just Crete but all the cultures and civilizations that were alive and kicking at that time.

I apologize for going all History Teacher on you here, but I’m going to start with some dates, just for reference. I promise I won’t throw too many numbers at you. Though the island of Crete has been inhabited since prehistoric times, what we think of as Minoan civilization didn’t arise until around 3500 BCE; at that point the people had farms, towns and tombs but no big buildings. The heyday of the Minoans with the big temples, the fancy tech (enclosed sewers, flushing commodes, multi-story buildings) and the beautiful artwork ran for just a few centuries, from about 1900 to 1400 BCE. After that, the culture declined, the Mycenaean Greeks took over the political arena and the civilization that we think of as Minoan pretty much ceased to exist. You can thank a combination of natural disasters, encroaching Greeks and pure bad luck for their cultural demise.

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