While researching for my series Servant of the Gods, I read articles and watched documentaries in reference to the origins of the Greek gods and goddesses. And while some originated in Ancient Greece, many of the divinities were “borrowed” from neighbouring countries such as Asia Minor, the Middle East and from the Minoans. But were the goddesses and gods of Minoan mythology a natural development or were they also taken from elsewhere?
The Minoans were traders and interacted with the Egyptians and the Mesopotamians. They were greatly influenced by the Egyptians as seen from their art and building palaces, though they are very unique. The closest association to the Egyptian gods the Minoans may have attributed was the Minotaur, yet the hybrid was never worshipped as a god.
There was a connection between the Mother Goddess and the Middle Eastern goddess, Astarte. Today, scholars have determined the Minoan religion was complex and did resemble the sophisticated cults of the Near East. Yet the Minoans developed into a flourishing culture and was influential in its own right. The Snake Goddess was also worshipped in Mesopotamia and in Egypt; while the attribution may differ in each, the symbolic importance of the snake was in its ability to shed skin and their habitat.
As a seafaring nation, the Minoans’ reach was extensive, and pottery, jewellery and small items of artefacts have been found within those they traded with, including mainland Greece. It was then the Minoans had a strong influence on the Mycenaean culture. A number of Minoan goddesses and their aspects were included in the Mycenaean religion. It was around this time when the gods appeared in the Minoan pantheon, and though their role was significant, they were not as prominent as the goddesses.
There is a great website that has a listing of the Minoan goddesses and their Greek counterparts. Do visit the site, it is interesting and informative. The following information comes from the website.
Personages of Minoan Culture
- Crocus as Cretan All-mother Kar
- Potnia Theron — Mistress of the Animals. This suggests Artemis.
- Snake Goddess — Snakes are very important to Athena but the snake goddess
seems more related to Aphrodite because of the fertility role of snakes.
- A-ta-no-dju-wa-ja. This name means Sun Goddess – the prefix atano is related to Luwian astanus = sun. The Mycenaeans may have translated this as
A-ta-na-po-ti-ni-ja (Mistress Athena)
- Earth Mother, later known as Demeter (Ida Mater may mean earth mother. There are two mountains named Ida, one near Troy and the other on Crete, so the name may also mean mountain mother.
- A-sa-sa-ra-me (or Ja-sa-sa-ra-me), my Lady
- Inanna Queen of Heaven and Earth (Athena may mean Athe-anna)
- Bee goddess
- Britomartis (goddess of the mountains and hunting) Artemis?
- Diktynne – Persephone?
- Aphaea – Athena?
- Mortal mythical women
(Kluth, FJ, Minoan culture and its women, The role of women in the art of Ancient Greece http://www.rwaag.org/minoan#Pers)
Whether the Minoan goddesses started out from other nations may be a coincidence as figurines of goddesses have been found on Crete which date back to the Neolithic era. It may be the Minoans saw aspects of the worship of the goddesses from these places, adapted them and later transpired into their own particular form of religion.
The Mother Goddess has always been an integral part of civilisation dating back to the Palaeolithic period. Figurines of these well-rounded and amply endowed manifestations of the goddess have been found throughout Europe and Asia. The concept was not new and developed accordingly to the needs of the society at the time.
What do you think? Were the Minoan goddesses an organic development or translation from other cultures?
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
Minoan culture and its women http://www.rwaag.org/minoan#Index
“The Mistress” PO-TI-NI-JA https://inanna.virtualave.net/snakegoddess.html#Cult
Symbols of the Minoan Goddess Religion http://potnia.theladyofthelabyrinth.com/symbols-of-the-minoan-goddess-religion/
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