The Cattle of the Gods
by Don Kean

The word of "Europe" arose from cattle breeding. Because of cooler climatic conditions the best cattle were native to Europe, and transported to other parts of the world. The Middle East once a cattle producing country, lost its lush rolling grasslands during early climate change, yet the demand for cattle products remained constant. Ancient stories tell of how their meat and dairy industry became controlled by the gods, "burned. offerings" came to be a religious requirement. The gods "who smelt the sweet savor" of roasting "arising to the heavens" The gods with the ability to feed on the smell could also change themselves into humans or animals to achieve their purposes earth. Male gods changing shape to chase the young and the beautiful is the most common story. One wit wrote a ditty on an ancient toilet wall;
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 hen shelter.

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 to renew.

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.

The Flawed Royal Line

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).

Arising from the Honey Jar

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 and suffocated.

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.

Don Kean

Don Kean was born in Melbourne Victoria
Educated in country schools around Victoria, in places still described
as "Celtic country" because of the level of Western European immigration
into those areas. Karl Marx noted that 95% of early Australian settlers
were of Celtic descent.

Travelled to and lived in other countries from America to Asia.
Has special interest in pre-Christian Western European religion: i.e;
Investigating the lost network of Nature and how that sublime concept
rose and fell as the major world religion. Defining the early European
eco-religious practices upon which the rise of the West was based.