|The rampant god
When divine length unfurls
Becomes a boar, a bull a ram
But as for me I pay the girls
And stay the way I am.
According to mythology the mother of Minos
was the maiden, Europa. Her child went on to become founder of
the Minoan Empire and supreme lawgiver of the ancient world. This
story began when the virgin Europa stood near the seashore in
Phoenicia picking violets. The lord god Zeus looked down upon
her and became filled with lust for her innocence. He changed
himself into a white bull and ambled up to lay at her feet. She
playfully climbed on his back. The bull then rose and rushed into
the sea to carry the maiden across to Crete where he took her
to a cave and had his way.
When Europa's father heard his daughter had
been kidnapped, he sent out his son, Cadmus to find her. The son
was told not to come back unless accompanied by his sister. Cadmus,
after the usual consultations with the gods, followed a pregnant
white cow to Egypt, branded on both flanks with a full moon. Zeus
had turned his other mistress into a pure white heifer to protect
her from his jealous wife. This other conquest of Zeus was Io,
a priestess of the high temple of Hera. The trouble was the wife
of Zeus happened to be Hera. Enraged with her husband's affairs
she sent Argus of the hundred eyes to watch over Io and report
back on her movements around the Mediterranean world.
In a counter-attack the god, Hermes, at the
bidding of Zeus, caught hold of Argus and cut off his head so
he could spy no more. Hera grieved over the loss of Argus and
placed his eyes in the tail of a peacock which from then on drew
her chariot. She sent a gadfly to torment Io, who, still in the
form of a white heifer, fled from land to land until she reached
the Nile and gave birth to the Egyptian bull, the divine Aphis.
(Greek stories had alternative endings to suit different occasions,
perhaps as a code) Io recovered her human form and gave birth
to a son. In one happy ending, she married the king of Egypt.
Legend says she also married the Egyptian god Osiris and after
her death received divine honors by becoming the goddess Isis.
The Ionian Sea and the Bosporus (cows' ford) are said to have
been given their names from the flight of Io while seeking to
escape the wrath of the jealous Hera.
The Rise of Minos
In Egypt, one and half thousand years before
the conquests of Alexander, the temple-based priests organized
slave raids along the European coastline in particular (the Slavic
Coast) to capture young fair-headed people for sacrifice; they
called these victims the white cattle of the gods. They received
some of this human cargo from the Minoans. The now extinct empire
once ruled the Aegean Sea and at their peak conquered Egypt but
could not sustain enough land troops. They withdrew, made pacts
with Egypt and built up cultural and trade links. Part of this
meant the exchange of hostages and slaves, essential in trade
alliances of the times. The Minoans concentrated on naval power
and lived in contact with all the major civilizations of the time
without being significantly threatened by external forces.
Crete, densely forested at the time of power,
exported great amounts of timber, wine, currants, olive oil, wool,
cloth, herbs, and purple dye. The island one of largest in the
Mediterranean was almost completely self-sufficient and imported
mainly luxury goods like gold, copper and jewels. The rich nation
then began to suffer from over development, like palaces being
built with over a thousand rooms. Otherwise their society was
superbly organized into communal "clans" where farming,
stock-raising, shipping and commence were developed to ever higher
levels. Worship of the life Mother was typical together with use
of sacred symbols (the sacred horns and the double axe as symbol
of justice that cuts both ways.
Minos 1, father of the Minoan nation,
founded a long dynasty of kings that carried his name forward.
The ancient stories mention that as a youth he had been captured
then enslaved in Egypt. Because of his obvious leadership qualities
he became accepted into the royal household. After disagreement
with the Pharaoh, Minos led a group of followers from Egypt by
using a flotilla of rafts. The Mediterranean, a tideless sea,
has currents running in a counter clockwise direction so it was
impossible to go directly. The tide would carry the rafts from
Egypt, north up the coast of present day Israel, past Lebanon
and Syria turning west along the Turkish coast to the wine dark
Aegean. There they found the seductive enchantment of the island
of Crete with many jewel-like islands scattered within its mother
The meaning behind the stories about the wanderings
of Io and the divine assault upon Europa becomes clearer when
knowing a Minoan Exodus of slaves escaped Egyptian bondage, long
before history presumably repeated itself. An interesting sidelight
is how the Minoans also set up an inland trading station in a
land of milk and honey called Canaan; the city they built is now
called Jerusalem. (One translation of Canaan is "merchant".)
Having no effective land army the Canaanites and their culture
were later "crushed into the dust" by determined invaders.
Today their closest descendants are the Palestinians.
The Minoan pioneers seemed to have a plan on
where to settle. They sailed on past many lands and chose seven
principal islands that represented the heavens. Seven for the
visible planets and also the star cluster called the Pleiades
(the seven sisters). Everyone knew the stars in that region of
the night sky made the gateway to Heaven. The constellation was
the guide to sailing the seas. The Cretan story of deliverance
from Egyptian bondage and their epic journey through the perils
of the sea on rafts was guided by these stars. When seen on the
horizon these northern stars seem to rotate within themselves
and are still used for celestial navigation as well as a guide
to planting and harvesting crops.
An Old Testament text, obviously borrowed from
earlier times, mentions the Pleiades. Job 38: 31-38
Can you tie the Pleiades together or loosen
the bonds that hold Orion?
Can you guide the stars season by season and
direct the big and little dipper?
Do you know the laws that govern the skies and can you make them
apply to the earth?
Can you shout orders to the clouds and make
them drench you with rain?
And if you command the lightning to flash, will it come to you
and say "At your service?"
Who tells the ibis when the Nile will flood
or who tells the rooster the rain will falll?
Who is wise enough to count the clouds and tilt
them over to pour as rain?
Rain that hardens the dust into arable lumps?
The fuller text of Job has verses about the
local environment, but other passages tell of a seagoing environment
and mention various cultural icons not native to Ancient Israel.
The general meaning concerns the absolute rule of a heavenly father
over the environment. The gist of the text warns how all must
keep faith particularly when situations are sent to try us. "The
Lord gave, now he has taken away," Job wailed. The Lord did
give back but only after Job repented for his breach of faith.
The ancient Israelites had no word for Nature and so the word
is never used in the Old Testament. The nature or "Mother"
view of the world brings up a whole set of alternative meanings
where our earth surroundings are addressed and investigated for
what they are in themselves rather than provided by a generous
Father. Arguably the above verses lean more towards the naturalistic
view rather than the monotheistic; they display an earlier more
open view that has transferred through to us today despite still
having a lack of written form.
In those days the practice of astronomy was
held as a state secret. Those nations that gained and held power
by clever observation didn't want their enemies to know the details
and so gain a free advantage. Perhaps the ancients were being
devious by wrapping mysteries around the facts. The seven islands
also symbolized the permanent seats for the judges in heaven who
met in the celestial hall of justice. They presided over the annual
"Judgment Day" and the sacred ones debated the merits
of whether the next year should begin and the world be allowed
The lord of all good and otherwise, with his
great horned crown then passed down judgment to earth from the
heavenly court above to the earthly court of Minos below. The
laws of Minos 1 (who was a gifted lawgiver far beyond his time)
became the religious commandments of the ancient world, but the
texts have been either lost or adapted to fit other religions.
In Greek legends (that were used to support Greek trade interests)
Zeus the (Greek) high god takes the form of a bull, to carry off
the Phoenician princess Europa, and took her across the sea to
Crete. There she bore three sons: Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Sarpedon.
Minos 1 became king of Crete.
Cretan religion was naturalistic and dualistic.
They worshipped male symbols of strength like the lion and the
bull, yet basically praised the early Great Mother of all, but
her days were numbered by the rise of the male gods of war that
"could scatter their enemies like sheep". Perhaps like
the later Greek Mother, Chaos, she retired after giving birth
to powerful sons and daughters who took over the day to day running
of the cosmos. On the female side the people worshipped the butterfly
and the bee, meaning all things that live have their day in the
sun. Their religion must have had some beautiful writings. The
bee would represent the human spirit that goes out to work every
day. On return to the hive the bee does a dance then goes in to
fill up the communal honeycomb of happiness cell by cell.
Minos 2, the grandson of Minos 1, boasted
of "being born of the gods" and went on to build his
Island city into an even more powerful trading Empire. The story
goes in the competition for kingship he declared whatever he prayed
for would be granted. While sacrificing to Poseidon, he prayed
that a bull might appear and he would sacrifice the beast to show
his devotion. Poseidon sent a pure white bull that arose from
the sea. Minos 2 became duly elected as king over his rivals.
However, like many politicos he had done a back flip and sacrificed
another bull instead. He found the bull so perfect that he could
not sacrifice it. He replaced the bull with another and used the
sacrificial bull as a prize stud for his royal herd.
The god Poseidon became angry and as punishment
filled the King's wife, Queen Pasiphae (the face of the moon,
the all-shining. daughter of the sun-god) with sexual desire the
white bull. Her desperate cravings drove her to climb inside the
hollowed out image of a cow. The bull mounted the cow image and
impregnated the Queen inside. Queen Pasiphae then gave birth to
a half man half bull creature - the Minotaur (Minos bull). This
child was taken away and raised in underground caverns, the labyrinth
constructed by Daedalus (a master builder) to save the Queen from
being executed for bearing a monster.
So none could know the secret of the Labyrinth,
Minos imprisoned Daedalus and his son, Icarus, in a tower. They
made an escape by gliding away on mechanical wings, but the wax
in Icarus' wings melted in the sun and he fell into the sea and
drowned. Daedalus survived to become the world's first successful
hang glider. Minos found Daedalus, who had taken refuge in the
court of King Cocalus in Sicily. Minos went to Sicily and demanded
his prisoner be handed over. Cocalus invited him to take a bath
first. Cocalus' daughters then killed Minos by pouring boiling
water over him.
After his death, Minos became a judge of the
dead in Hades together with Aeacus and Rhadamanthys. Rhadamanthys
judged the souls of Asians, Aeacus judged Europeans and Minos
had the deciding vote. Minos was the judge of those who had been
given the death penalty on a false charge. Minos, who sat on an
urn, decided whether a soul should go to Elysium (fields of paradise)
orTartarus (the underground).
Minos had many children. Another of Minos' sons,
Androgeus, won every game in a contest with Athens. The other
contestants became jealous and killed him. King Minos then demanded
a tribute of virgins, male and female from Athens, for he held
the city responsible for the death of his son. Every nine years
the Minoans took fourteen young Athenians for sacrifice to the
half man bull-beast, who developed an appetite for human flesh
rather than eat grass. A presumably innocent Greek male, Theseus,
eventually slew the beast with a sword. He found his way out of
the labyrinth by a ball of thread given to him by Ariadne, daughter
of King Minos. She had fallen in love with him and they made good
their escape Theseus fled when reaching safety leaving his heartbroken
royal girlfriend behind.
The Minoans divided human morality into the
dark side and the light side but that does not mean they had a
full blown concept of heaven and hell as known today. The afterlife
divisions arose in much later under the prophet Zoroaster of Persia.
The Cretans had a sacred story of the young couple, boy and girl,
who were held captive by the darkness of winter and came back
in the light in the spring, thus representing the cycles of humans
and nature that reflect the moods of each other through the seasons.
The Minoan games had their dark side. Entering
into a labyrinth offers nothing as a spectator event when the
victim is going in, but coming out of the maze makes a different
matter. Bulls cannot find their way out of dark places and are
willing enough to be led. The victims led a confused bull out
of the maze with a ball of string and a sword in the hope of their
life being spared. However the bull would immediately charge in
the open arena. On the light side their arenas had the national
sport of bull leaping. Young men and women flipped their willowy
bodies over a bull. The powerful (male) god of fertility was worshipped
in the form of a bull along with the Great Mother of life (perhaps
as a lioness).
Pottery figurines of female deities date back
to times in Crete where the women portrayed wore flounced dresses
that leave their breasts exposed. Sometimes a regal female figure
is represented that blesses the world by holding her lactating
breasts; sometimes she holds two snakes aloft in victory. The
first figure represents the great mother feeding her people; the
divine cow with milk for all. In those times it was a blessing
for a woman to be called a cow.
The figure with the snakes has multiple meanings.
One message is how Queen Asher, with two snakes, celebrates the
return of the harvest. This also encouraged women to use house
snakes to catch mice and rats. The Minoan Empire relied on shipment
of goods and rodent control was a major problem. This Queen figure
also tells of resurrection of her child. (The Queen had previously
given birth to the Minotaur, the bull god. Their next son, Glaukos
(sea green or eyes of blue) was normal but had an unfortunate
accident. He went into a wine cellar and played with a ball (that
darn mysterious ball of string again). It landed in a vat of honey.
While trying to retrieve the ball the child fell into the vat
When nobody found him, they consulted the oracle
at Delphi. The female oracle said to them, "A marvelous thing
is born among you; whosoever solves the mystery this birth will
also find the child." In the herds of Minos a newborn calf
was noticed to change color three times a day. First it was white,
then red, and finally black. A fortuneteller from Argos (a country),
Polyidos, solved the mystery. The changing colors on the calf
represented the ripening of blackberries. After solving the puzzle,
Polyidos then had to find the location of the child. He noticed
owls driving away bees from the entrance to the royal wine-cellar.
Inside he found the dead child inside a vat of honey.
In one ancient version of the story the grieving
King Minos became angry and demanded Polyidos revive his son or
die. The seer was put into a tomb with the body and the entrance
sealed with a large rock. When inside Polyidos saw a serpent approaching
the corpse and killed it. After killing another serpent he took
an evergreen plant and laid it on the serpents to draw their poison.
He then laid the poison laden plant on the boy's tongue and laid
hands on the infant until the boy returned to life. Polyidos then
wrapped the two serpents around a pole and tapped on the tomb
rock - it rolled aside. Upon seeing her arisen son emerge from
the tomb his mother did a dance of joy and held the dead serpents
over her head to show the victory of the Mother's light of love
over the dark cavern of death. There are other explanations for
the dancing figure but they fail to convey the same intense level
of piety and joy.
The Minoans developed their culture and religion
over a two thousand year period before destruction by volcano,
earthquakes and the later persistent raiding parties led by Mycenaean
invaders, the proto-Greeks who finally broke the Island grip on
sea power and transferred the benefits to mainland Greece. One
age had ended and another began. The questions regarding what
had gone on before are still at the edge of historical records
that provide no definitive answers. We sometimes seem to hear
the fading echoes and see faint images of their fabulous religion
through Greek myths and archeological finds. Their song is over,
but the melody lingers on. Their religious stories often found
their way into the culture of nearby nations. The prayers to Ishtar
in Babylon mention important symbols to the Minoan culture;
|See me O Lady; accept my prayers
Look upon me and hear my supplication...
O exalted Anana fierce lioness,
Let your heart be at ease
O angry wild ox let your spirit be appeased
Let the favor of your eyes be upon us...
I come to pay my heed to you, O Lady
My attention has turned close to you.