Female deity reigns

A predominant feature of Minoan culture was their affiliation with nature and the worship of a female goddess. Through their art, archaeologists have been able to identify the multiple roles the goddess represented. The Minoans also worshipped a male god, represented by the bull and the sun otherwise known as the ‘Earthshaker’. In later mythology, this was linked to Poseidon, Greek god of the sea, and the bull was his symbol as were horses. He did after all gift King Minos with a white bull to sacrifice in exchange for rulership of Crete and surrounding islands. For those familiar with the myth will know the outcome of the decision King Minos made by not sacrificing the bull to Poseidon.

Minoan Snake Goddess Heraklion Museum Courtesy of Wikipedia
Minoan Snake Goddess
Heraklion Museum
Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Minoans, as evidenced in their artwork, held nature in high esteem and believed it to be the manifestation of the Mother Goddess. She was worshipped as a Fertility Goddess, a Mistress of the Animals, a protector of cities, the home, the harvest and the underworld. Many of the statues of the Mother Goddess have her holding serpents, hence the title the Serpent or Snake Goddess. As I was researching for my book, I found an intriguing fact regarding the snakes: it was a symbol of both birth and death. This was considered important as snakes were born from the earth and returned there. The Minoans saw this a symbolic struggle between life and death.

Priestesses had a significant role in Minoan rites and festivals of which some were worshipped as goddesses or at least a representation of a goddess. Many of the rituals performed were in caves, on mountains and around trees that involved dancing. The cave was seen as the womb of the earth and where initiation rites were held. Trees were sacred and there’s art to show trees were potted. Not a new concept at all! People would bring offerings to these places such as a pot of honey, spices, jugs of oil, wool, cheese and wine. Animals were sacrificed during initiation rites and there has been human bones found that indicated the Minoans also practiced human sacrifice. From resources read, the ritualistic killing of humans took place when a catastrophic event happened or to prevent one.

Minoan Gold Seal Heralkion Museum
Minoan Gold Seal
Heralkion Museum

Mountains and hills were used as sites for sanctuaries and two have been excavated so far: Petsofa, east of Crete and Iuktas, south of Knossos. At these sites archaeologists have found human and clay animal figurines, and layers of ash. Blood sacrifices were not practiced at these sanctuaries and the offering of the figurines may have been placed as substitutes. It may be possible animals were killed elsewhere to preserve the sanctity of the mountains.

There has been no evidence of a temple found on Crete, though domestic sanctuaries were identified in the palaces and in homes. The palaces were the focal point for Minoan religion and it has been suggested the lustral basin found at Knossos was used for some ritualistic purpose, though as Linear A hasn’t been deciphered, we won’t know for a while yet.

Lustral basin at Knossos http://www.athenapub.com/11palace.htm
Lustral basin at Knossos

It would appear Minoan religion was dominated by goddesses and the few gods represented played a secondary role. This changed when Zeus and his siblings were introduced into Greek mythology/religion who was hidden as a babe in the Idaean cave on Crete. The Mother Goddess was supplanted and the role of female deities relegated to secondary roles.

Thank you for visiting and reading. As always, your comments are valued and welcomed.

Historical fiction novelist and a secondary teacher, Luciana Cavallaro, likes to meander from contemporary life to the realms of mythology and history. Subscribe to her free short story at http://eepurl.com/bhESs1

Bury, JB and Meiggs, Russell A history of Greece
Minoan Civilisation www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/History/Minoans.html
Minoan culture and its women www.rwaag.org.minoan
The “Mistress” Po-ti-ni-ja http://inanna.virtalave.net/snakegoddess.html#cult

Lucianacavallaro_accursedwomen_web_finalLucianaCavallaro_Searchforthegoldenserpent_web_finalAvailable in paperback and ebook
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  1. Linnea Tanner

    Reblogged this on Apollo's Raven and commented:
    The following is a reblog from one of my favorite sites, ETERNAL ATLANTIS, by Luciana Cavallaro. This is an article from the ongoing series on the Ancient Minoan society and their worship of the female goddess entitled, “Female deity reigns..” A predominant feature of Minoan culture was their affiliation with nature and the worship of a female goddess. Through their art, archaeologists have been able to identify the multiple roles the goddess represented.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Linnea Tanner

    Hi Luciana,

    I enjoyed your post regarding the importance of the goddess in the Ancient Minoan civilization. It is fascinating how the goddess dominated many of these ancient civilizations. This is a reflection of the high regard women must have held in these societies. I had a chance to visit the exhibition on the Minoan Society at the British Museum and found this exhibition particularly fascinating.

    As always, I look forward to learning more about this civilization. Best wishes!


    Liked by 1 person

    • cav12

      Hi Linnea,
      How fantastic you got to see the exhibition on the Minoan Society. I would have loved to have seen it. I must admit to spending quite a few hours at the Heraklion Museum in Crete. It was fabulous 😀
      Thank you,

      Liked by 1 person

  3. jmmcdowell

    I’ve often wondered what we might finally learn when someone “breaks the code” of Linear A. Of course, like all good historical and archaeological research, for every question answered, ten more will arise!

    Liked by 1 person

    • cav12

      It would be an extraordinary to learn what they wrote. Like the Etruscan language, I do hope someone will can learn both languages so they can reveal the ‘mysteries’ that surround these enigmatic cultures. 😀


  4. Aquileana

    Excellent post, cara Luciana… It is truly interesting to learn about the importance of snakes among minoans…. When you mentioned that snakes represented the cycle of life and death you made me think of an ancient symbol featuring this animal… It is called ouroboros, and It depicts a snake trying to bit its own tail… I think the symbolism shows up clearly in the way you have highlighted above… Sending best wishes, always. Aquileana 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • cav12

      Ciao Aquileana,
      I had forgotten about the ouroboros; the cyclic nature of the universe, creation and destruction 😀
      Thank you for reminding me of the mystic symbol.
      Grazie tante,
      Luciana 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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