The most obvious thing present in Minoan religion is its polytheistic and matriarchal features, thus it is always referred to as a goddess religion, wherein all deities are female and there had been no male divinity detected until later times. Added to that is the fact that male deities are uncommon and they are usually embodied on a lesser level in contrast to female deities. The predominance of goddesses in the Minoan religion is very apparent in its cults. The proof to this claim is that the majority of mainland palaces shows paintings of parades wherein the people give offerings to their goddesses.
Clay statues of female deities were also located in Crete. The predominance of female gods is also indicated by the central task occupied by priestesses in religious rites and the attendance of women in ceremonies’ environment. The number of women also exceeded that of priests and male assistants, and this could be seen in the paintings on the Aghia Triadha Sarcophagus which would be further discussed later on this paper along with other evidences found which points to the predominance of goddesses in the said religion.
The Minoans worships female gods, and even though there are several proof of male deities, portrayals of Minoan goddesses greatly outnumber representations of something which could be judged as a Minoan male deity. Whereas some of these portrayals of women are considered to be representations of worshippers and female priests overseeing religious rituals, as opposed to the goddess herself, there still appear to be numerous female deities such as Mother Goddess of fertility, and so on (Hooker, 1999).
Since ruins and remnants were the only thing left for us in understanding Minoan culture, one could only hypothesize and predict what the Minoans religious culture and practices had been. The Minoans left only some articles and pieces of their relics which only suggests at a prosperous and complicated religious practices and figurative method behind their cracked exteriors. As already mentioned earlier, the most evident attribute of this particular religion is that it is polytheistic and matriarchal in nature. Most of the Minoans gods are female and it was only after so many years that male gods had been identified and even then they hold inferior position in contrast to female gods.
A majority of religious and cultural scholars now accept as true that almost every religion started out with a matriarchal characteristics and it was only after so many years that they decided to change this matriarchal existence into a patriarchal one. The sudden change from a matriarchal kind of religion into a patriarchal one is still a cause of great controversy up to this point in time.
However, the espousal of an inactive way of life due to agriculture may have basically reoriented society in the direction of a patriarchal model of organization and the ensuing rethinking of religion comprised by female gods. What is for sure is that urbanization radically hastened gender inequality as the lives of mankind unexpectedly took up a double magnitude, that of the public and the private life.
The control of public life which is comprised of supervision, regulation, and military groups made up by the men definitely shaped a reorientation of religious principles. However, the Cretans apparently did not change their matriarchal way of life and religion into a patriarchal one. Up to this point in time, the heritage of the female oriented religion is still present in their lives. This is evident through the fact that in Crete men and women alike vow through the name of Virgin Mary. In Crete, the epithet Panagia is as popular as ever (Hooker, 1999).
The ruler of the Minoan pantheon appears to have been omnipotent goddesses who governs and oversees everything in the world. This god is a mother deity, the label having come from her supposedly motherly attitude towards everything and everyone here on Earth. The relationship of a mother to a child is believed to be completely different from that of a father to his children. One may find this particular claim hard to understand however, such would not be the case if one thinks back and reflect that almost everyone holds the saying that “there is no greater love than that of a mother to a child” to be true, and even Sigmund Freud suggests the same notion on one of his works, “Moses and Monotheism”.
According to him, the relationship between a mother and child is apparently more real than that of a child with his father especially if one would consider the fact that each and every one of us came from our mother’s womb. Although a relationship with a father is also a biological one, such is different and could only be supposed since the child did not come from the father, rather, as mentioned earlier, we all came from our mother’s womb.
From here, one could deduct that one of the fundamental aspects of a matriarchal religion is a closer affiliation or connection, like kinship and the like to their goddesses. Religions dominated by male figures on the other hand, is liable to emphasize distance. However, all of these are mere suppositions and intelligent guesses from great thinkers, considering the fact that very little information regarding goddess religion were actually handed down to us.
It is basically owing to this reason that it is hard to weigh the nature of the mother-goddess of Minoans. There are several demonstrations of goddesses, which directs to the assumption that the Minoans were polytheistic. However there are also assertions that the many representations of female goddesses were nothing but just numerous manifestations of a single goddess.
There are numerous goddesses which could be differentiated from one another in spite of the claims for a monotheistic religion. There is The Lady of the Beasts or what others call the Huntress, this particular deity is epitomized as one which conquers and is efficient in mastering beasts or animals. In a later embodiment, Huntress became the Mountain Mother and was illustrated to be standing on a mountain and evidently defending the animals as well as the natural world.
Snake Goddess, on the other hand is probably the most popular goddess of the Minoan religion. She has snakes interlinked on her body and since her sculptures are found only on houses or small shrines in palaces, there are suppositions that the Snake Goddess is some kind of a domestic deity. However, the household goddess also appears in the form of a tiny bird, this is assumed since there are several shrines which are leaning around a dove-like form. Majority of scholars thinks that major goddesses of Greek religion such as Hera, Artemis, and the like originated from Minoan goddesses (Marinatos, 1993).
The world for the Cretans appears to be saturated with divinity, every object in the universe were all full of religious significance. This is evident on their worship of trees, pillars, and so on, the priesthood as it appears, is dominated by women, although there are minute proofs that palace kings also serves religious purposes (Marinatos, 1993).
There are also proofs that the Minoans religion also holds belief on demons, which are constantly depicted as doing certain religious rites and the like, so their precise nature is hard to judge. They are also portrayed in human forms, with the hands and feet of a lion, and while they are definitely hideous, they could still be, considered as representations of religious worships.
Also, as mentioned earlier, urbanization radically modifies social relations. Instead of genuine, natural, relationships founded on kinship and empathy, urbanized cultures managed themselves around more theoretical, less durable, and intrinsically uneven lines. For instance, urbanized society revolves around class or economic function instead of kinship, economic function creates a sort of social discrimination, as officials, priests, and so on comes to dwell in more significant roles than other people. /urbanization also creates a rip in human experience in that life is separated into public and private areas. Men were the ones who dominate public fields (Trustees of Dartmouth College, 2005).
Crete, on the other hand avoided this sudden shift from matriarchal rule into a patriarchal one. Crete appears to be a society with no or very little class prejudices. Archaeological proofs imply that women did not stop from playing significant role in their society, especially on the public spheres. Women there operated as priests, as functionaries as well as officials, they also joined in the same sports male joins in. This is greatly admirable considering the fact that sports in Crete were extremely fierce and risky. Bull-jumping for one is a sport wherein those who are weak at heart could not possibly hope to join into. All the demonstrations of the said sports points out that even a woman join in this dangerous activity.
It also appears that females partake in every profession and employment accessible for the male of the specie. The speedy increase of commerce in Crete includes accomplished craftswomen and entrepreneurs, and even the great, system of government and priesthood is full of women. In spite of the fact that the palace kings are male, the society itself could not be considered a patriarchal one.
In fact proofs which came from Cretan settlements proved that Cretan society and religion is a matrilineal one. This is evident in the fact that kinship ancestry was reckoned through the mother’s lineage. Although there is no way to be certain that the Crete society is indeed matrilineal one could not deny that it is a possible conclusion especially since their religion is goddess-based.
Places of worship could also be one determinant that the religion of Minoans is goddess based. Many caves located in Crete showed a great deal of information regarding the Minoan religion. Caves were 1st utilized in Crete as abodes or some kind of living areas in the Neolithic period. By the end of the Neolithic era, caves started to be used at length, as burial grounds, and this kind of custom carried on all throughout the Early Minoan age. Caves were also viewed as cult places in the Middle Minoan era, where they hold their worship to their deities. The predominance of female goddesses in Minoan religion is supported by the presence of these caves wherein the deities they revere there all proved to be females.
One of the most prominent cult caves is the Cave of Eilethyia which could be located near Amnisos and whose name is linked to the goddess Eileithyia. The basis for this particular connection could be found in Homer’s Odyssey. Close to the center of the cave, one could find a cylindrical stalagmite and contained in the area and in front of the stalagmite is something which looks like a square stone, which some believes to be an altar.
The presence of domestic shrines also points out to the matriarchal facet of the Minoan religion. The shrine at Myrthos is supposedly the place where the goddess Myrtos was found. This particular shrine could be dated back at the early Prepalatial period and it was known to endure all throughout Minoan prehistory. Four of the best well-known Minoan havens could also attest to the domineering feature of the said religion (Moss, 2000).
The Shrine of the Double Axes at Knossos is a small shrine which was deserted along with its religious furnishings in situ and is therefore very precious in terms of understanding the Minoan religion. The room’s ground region is separated into different levels. A number of big vases could be located in the front area, in the middle region a stand table of offerings is entrenched in the bottom, and on each side of the table groups of tiny jugs and cups could be seen. At the back of the room, one could see an elevated bench wherein two set stuccoes clay could be located.
It is where one the horns of consecration are placed, and in each container, between the horns of consecration is a circular hole. This hole is supposedly used to hold a double axe. Amidst the two pairs of horns, they located a figurine of a woman which is shaped like a bell. There were also found a slighter statue of a woman. They also found a sculpture of a man holding out a dove as well as two other figurines of women (one of which have a bird atop its head). The last is frequently believed to be a goddess while the other statuettes are categorized as votaries.
The Town Shrine at Gournia is a post-palatial bench asylum situated close to the utmost point of the neighborhood. This tiny shrine does not belong to a palace or to any huge structure in particular. Rather, the shrine is an independent architectural division close to a cobbled road. When the shrine was unearthed they saw that it is in a noticeable poor state of conservation.
However, its floor is full of a huge quantity of cult belongings, some of which are similar to those of the Shrine of the Double Axes. The absence of associated pottery made it had to date the shrine; however, it is possible that it was last put into use in the LM IIIB era. A low bench is situated in the southern partition. The northeast corner, on the other hand, showed a public stand table of offerings about which were to be found four snake-tubes, the bottom of a 5th snake-tube hidden on the stand table of offerings
The Ayia Triadha Sarcophagus is also one of the great sources of evidence if one wants to prove that Minoan religion is basically goddess-based. The said sarcophagus was discovered in a pillaged tomb in early fourteenth century B.C. It is located in Ayia Triadha, thus the name Ayia Triadha Sarcophagus. The front side of the sarcophagus depicted goddesses which were represented by the double axes, there are also birds located atop the axes which is believed to symbolize the arrival of a goddess.
In the West end of the sarcophagus is an incomplete male processional scenario, it also shows a chariot pulled by two Agrimia, and the chariot also carries two women. Agrimia is believed to have religious implications in Minoan art. It is also probable that the two women on the chariot are goddesses. At the back side of the sarcophagus is a shrine with a tree in the middle. To the left of the said shrine is an altar, a woman stands in front of the altar and behind the woman is a sacrificial table where a bull is secured which indicates that it is to be sacrificed.
The woman standing have her hands held high while at the other side of the scene one could see a parade of women with their palms down which signifies that the sacrifice is meant for the earth or to an underworld character which in turn, implies the possibility that the sacrifice is meant for a funeral of some sort. At the East Side of the sarcophagus are two females riding a chariot which is pulled by two winged griffins, and over them there is a flying bird. The two women are viewed as goddesses, which are implied by the mystical appearance of the griffins. These figures are also viewed to be guides for those who are heading towards the underworld (Minoan, 1988).
As could be seen, huge quantity of evidences points out that the Minoan religion is indeed dominated by females. It is also mainly because of this particular observation, which were derived mainly from archaeological relics, that it is conclude that the society of Crete is also matriarchal in nature. The presence of numerous goddesses depicted through relics such as paintings, vases, and place of worships and so on all points out that the religion of Minoans were indeed polytheistic and goddess-based in nature.
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