The Minoan Path: Walking with Ariadne's Tribe

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The Minoan Sun Goddess: Hail Therasia!

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Over in Ariadne's Tribe, we've been chasing the Minoan sun goddess for some time now. It has long been a given that there is a Minoan sun goddess; Nanno Marinatos even wrote a book that's largely about her, without being able to properly identify her (and clinging far too heavily to some of Sir Arthur Evans' ideas, in my opinion, but that's a rant for another day). Several of us have had dreams and visions of the Minoan sun goddess, and folk dance from around the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean enshrines a regional sun goddess even today. So who is she? What are her symbols? How can we connect with her?

We believe her name is Therasia, and she is the goddess whose throne so famously sits in a room just off the central courtyard in the Knossos temple complex. If you look closely at the front of that throne, you'll see the sun rising over the double-peaked sacred summit of Mt. Juktas. But there are far more clues than just the carving on the front of the throne.

Throughout the Mediterranean, the palm tree and the griffin are symbols of an ancient sun goddess. And what flanks that throne? Palm trees and griffins. (Please note that when the wall surrounding the throne was reconstructed, the artists inexplicably erased the palm trees and inserted lilies instead, so that's what you see in most photos of the Throne Room. The photo above, from the Ashmolean Museum, shows how the palm trees originally flanked the seat, between the throne and the griffins.)

Some time back, when I was feeling particularly frustrated in my search for the Minoan sun goddess, I had a dream in which I was standing on top of a ziggurat somewhere in Mesopotamia. Inanna was standing beside me, pointing west across the land and the sea, to Crete. "The date is the Day Sun," she said to me, "and the pomegranate is the Night Sun." So I began following the threads, particularly of the Cretan date palm. Then the lovely folks in Ariadne's Tribe started chiming in with their own research and numinous experiences, and together we found our way to Therasia.

Here's what we have so far, though the threads are a bit tangled after all these millennia: Therasia (her name sounds like "Tirassia" in my head) is the sun goddess, whose mythos originally had her self-birthing every year at the Winter Solstice. Later on, Dionysus was co-opted as a solar year king and her son, who is born every year at Midwinter.

Her symbols are the date palm and the fruit of that tree; the griffin - perhaps the fieriest of the mythical creatures in Minoan art; the color red, including the famed blood-red murex dye that later became known as Phoenician purple; and of course, the sun rising over the sacred peaks of Crete. She rides through the Underworld (the land of pomegranates) at night, from her place of setting in the west to her place of rising in the east.

Therasia is one of the Minoan Mothers, the goddess triplicity of Land/Sea/Sky. For some time now, we have struggled with this set of goddesses, putting Ourania (the Minoan cosmic/stellar goddess) in the place of Sky. But that always seemed a bit awkward; Ourania is beyond the sky, beyond our earth-bound realm, wider than the solar system or even the galaxy. Therasia now takes her rightful place as Sky within the triplicity, alongside Rhea as Earth and Posidaeja as Sea.

I invite you to approach Therasia, meditate with her, honor her, invoke her in your rituals, get to know her. May she shine brightly on your life and all your endeavors.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

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I'm an artist, writer, and lover of all things ancient and mysterious. The Minoans of Bronze Age Crete have been a particular passion of mine since a fateful art history class introduced me to the frescoes of Knossos back in high school. My first book was published in 2001; one of my most recent works is Labrys and Horns: An Introduction to Modern Minoan Paganism. I've also created a Minoan Tarot deck and a Minoan coloring book. When I'm not busy drawing and writing, I enjoy gardening and giving living history demonstrations at local historic sites.

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