The Triple Goddess is a major component of modern Paganism, but the Maiden-Mother-Crone triplicity doesn't appear in ancient Crete. The closest we can come to that kind of "life phases" division is a Younger and Elder Goddess, exemplified by Rhea (the Great Mother) and Ariadne (the daughter). This mother-daughter duo is the possible origin of the Eleusinian Mysteries, whose sacred pair of Demeter and Persephone are well known in the modern Pagan world (check out Charlene Spretnak's inspired book Lost Goddesses of Early Greece for more on this subject). I like to think of this twofold goddess as Maiden and Matriarch, the two stages of womanhood in a society in which women's ability to birth children for men wasn't their primary function in life.
But there is a Minoan triplicity associated with the Goddess. It doesn't have to do with the life stages and fertility functions of women, but with the world around us and how the Sacred Feminine manifests in it. It's the ancient threefold division of Land/Sea/Sky. This triplicity unfolds around each and every one of us every day of our lives.
The last month has presented many changes, both physical and spiritual. In the past month, I've dealt with some mobility-limiting injuries, preparation for the July birthdays in my household, and the completion of two novels, ready for publication. During this time, when I allowed myself to be still and quiet my mind, I could hear a call to connect with the gods. With all of my real-world distractions, I wasn't making time for it. Then I heard someone else reciting a prayer for logic, calm, and open minds. It was so beautiful and well sung, the inspiration to write my own prayer to one of the gods with whom I work, led to the following.
The ancient Minoans revered the sea, and that makes perfect sense. After all, they lived on an island just south of Greece. Granted, it's a fairly large one as islands go: about 260 km (160 miles) long and 60 km (37 miles) wide. Still, the weather on Crete has always been mediated by the sea. And the Minoans plied their trade, becoming the wealthiest merchants of their time, by sailing large ships around the Mediterranean and even out the Straits of Gibraltar, up the Atlantic coast of Europe.
The merchants made their living on the sea and throughout the many centuries of Minoan civilization, the people relied on the sea as a source of food. But I think the Minoans also appreciated the beauty of the marine world, with its varied and fascinating plant and animal inhabitants. For instance, as far as we know they didn't eat dolphins, but there are a lot of dolphins in Minoan art, and not just the famous fresco at the top of this page. Here's a lovely stirrup jar with a leaping dolphin on it (all images are from Wikimedia Commons):
My friends have been on pilgrimage. They’ve walked the Camino and hiked the Himalayas and climbed Glastonbury Tor. They've made it to Dharamsala and Rishikesh. I haven’t done any of that. But I have been to the ocean in Maine. And I have walked back and forth between two points twenty feet apart for long periods. Those are my pilgrimages.
When I was young, my best friend had a pool, and we spent countless hours each summer turning into prunes and pretending we were mermaids. We practiced holding our feet together, flipping imaginary fins as we swam, or, more often, sat on the bottom of the shallow end, having a mermaid tea party. Somewhere along the way, however, I grew too self-conscious of my body in a bathing suit, and I taught myself not to like the water. I’d never been a strong swimmer, so for years I was able to believe that I simply didn’t like being in the water, preferring to dip my toes in the ocean rather than submerge my whole self. Even when, a few years ago, I worked my way back down to a weight were I felt healthy and sexy, I still clung to the belief that I hated going into the water. As I slowly gained weight and lost confidence, it never even occurred to me to question my often-repeated mantra that “I just didn’t like to be in the water”.
If you haven’t yet swum in the mighty Atlantic Ocean, gulped in a little salt water, floated in billowy delicious waves, hiked through deep cream-colored beach sand, picked up shells, jumped to save your bare feet from becoming burnt as you walk over 20 foot, hot dunes, wandered aimlessly in a small New England fishing village, or laughed to an outdoor-theatre Shakespeare Troupe, I highly recommend it. This August saw me doing all of this, and while it was an incredible week, what made it extra special—and a summer’s vacation I will treasure—is that I did it all with my sister.
When I was eleven or twelve, my family took an epic road trip. We traveled from Michigan to the east coast, stopping in Washington, D.C., as well as visiting some family friends who lived near one of Virginia’s beaches. It was my first time meeting the ocean, and the part of the long trip I was looking forward to most.
I still remember the heady feeling of the waves carrying me as I floated, waiting on my borrowed boogie board, the taste of salt in my mouth. It was magical, and I fell in love with the ocean that day.