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A New Naming for Ancient Crete


Carol P. Christ


The words we use affect our thinking. In the case of ancient Crete the repetition of the terms “Palace,” “Palace of Knossos,” “King Minos,” “Minoan,” ”Priest-King,”  “Prince of the Lilies,” and “Double Axe” shape the way we understand history–-even when we ourselves know these terms are incorrect. We must engage in “new naming.”

Goddess Tour Greece-Dancing Women

Ariadne. May have been a name of the Goddess of pre-patriarchal Crete. The ending “ne” signifies that Ariadne is not of Greek or Indo-European origin. The name Ariadne predates the later Greek myths and is likely to be a name used in Crete before the Greeks arrived. Homer wrote of a "dancing place" where Ariadne of the lovely tresses danced. Ariadne may be the Lady of the Labryinth to whom a jar of honey was offered as recoreded in a Linear B tablet.

Ariadnian. My “new naming” of the Old European pre-patriarchal culture of ancient Crete from arrival of the Neolithic settlers from Anatolia c.7000 BCE to the Mycenaean invasion c.1450 BCE. Arthur Evans named the Bronze Age (c.3000-1450 BCE) culture of Crete “Minoan” after King Minos of Greek mythology, son of Zeus and Europa, husband of Pasiphae, father of Ariadne, whose gift of the secret of the labyrinth to Theseus led to the downfall of her culture. Evans assumed that Minoan Crete was ruled by a King. He also separated the “Minoan” culture from the earlier Neolithic culture of the first settlers of Crete. I use the same term for both, as I view the Bronze Age culture as a flowering of the earlier Neolithic roots of the culture. The Dancing Goddess or the Snake Goddess could become the new ”icon” of Ariadnian Crete.  It could and should replace the “icon” of  the “Priest-King” Arthur Evans’ “imaginatively” reconstructed and named “Prince of the Lilies.”  Once we remove the feather crown that probably belonged to a Sphinx, the figure’s white color and athletic body suggest it was intended to portray a young female bull-leaper leading a bull.


A-sa-sa-ra. A name found in pre-Indo-European Linear A libation formulas and thought to be a name of the Goddess. Its similarity to the names Asherah, Ishtar, and possibly Isis, led to the suggestion that this name was brought to Crete c.3000 BCE by new settlers who also brought the bronze smelting technology. However, it is possible and not unlikely that the name came to Crete with the original settlers from Anatolia, especially since, unlike her counterparts in the Middle East, the Ariadnian Goddess was not subordinated to a Father God. Could Asasara be the name of the Snake Goddess? Sssssssssss…


Bronze Age. Defined by the smelting of bronze, but not yet iron.


Ida-Mate. A name found in Linear A, the undeciphered non-Indo-European language of Bronze Age Crete, thought to be a name of the Goddess as Mother Ida, Moutain Mother of Mount Ida.  Ida Mate appears as twin peaks or breasts when viewed from the Sacred Center of Phaistos.


Initiation Room. A small underground room entered by a series of steps in an “L” shape.  The chamber could be made dark or light through the use of shutters on an upper level, and it would have been possible to look down into the chamber from above.  There was usually a small square ritual area in front of the steps leading down.  May have been used for initiation, prayer, sacred dreaming, or healing.  Found in the Sacred Centers and in smaller buildings.  Arthur Evans called these rooms “Lustral Basins” (bathing chambers) and assumed they held water to be used in ritual bathing despite the fact that they have no drains.


Indo-European. A group of languages originating in the Russian steppes north of the Black Sea, including European languages (except Basque which is pre-Indo-European and Hungarian and Finnish, which are Finno-Ugric) and including Sanskrit. Indo-Europeans invaded Europe in waves from the north, beginning c.4400 BCE.  Greek-speaking Indo-Europeans known as Mycenaeans established fortified strongholds in the Peloponnese of Greece by c.2000 BCE. Indo-Europeans domesticated the horse; their culture was patriarchal, nomadic, warlike, and not highly artistic; they worshipped shining Gods of the sky who were reflections of their bronze weapons. The Indo-European Mycenaeans invaded Crete c.1450 BCE; their language, Linear B, is an early form of Greek. A different Indo-European group invaded India c.1500 BCE.


Labrys. Double wings, a symbol of the Bird Goddess. Generally translated as Double Axe.  However, the labrys was not used to cut anything and never used in sacrifice of animals.


Matrilineal. Identity and property pass through the female line, often through the mother clan.


Matrilocal. Daughters and sometimes sons live with their mothers, remaining in the maternal clan for life.


Matrifocal. Societies that honor mothers and values associated with motherhood—love, generosity, and care. These values are not just for women but are the standards of ethical behavior for everyone.


Matriarchal. Scholars define matriarchies as societies where women “ruled” and conclude that they never existed. Heidi Goettner-Abendroth redefined matriarchies as societies that honor motherhood as their first principle. Matriarchies are: 1) generally in the early stages of agriculture with land held in common by maternal clans; 2) economically egalitarian with differences of wealth redistributed through gift-giving; 3) politically egalitarian with power shared by mothers and uncles and in participatory democracy; 4) matrifocal, valuing love, generosity, and caring as the highest values for both sexes, and usually viewing Earth as a great and giving Mother.


Neolithic. New Stone Age, referring to the invention of agriculture (c.8000 BCE in the Middle East) and the change from gathering and hunting to farming. Scholars “concede” that “woman the gatherer” invented agriculture and the other new technologies of the Neolithic, pottery-making and weaving—but do not correlate the invention and probable control of new technologies to female power in society. The first settlers in Crete came from the Anatolia about 7000 BCE, bringing the new technologies of agriculture and possibly pottery-making and weaving with them


Old Europe. The name given by Marija Gimbutas to the pre-Indo-European, pre-patriarchal Neolithic cultures of Europe c. 6500-3500 BCE. Old European cultures were settled, agricultural, artistic, peaceful, egalitarian, matrilineal, probably matrilocal, matrifocal, worshipping the Goddess and celebrating the powers of birth, death, and regeneration in all of life. Crete, at the southern end of Europe, was the last flowering of Old European culture.


Sacred Centers. The name I have given to the complexes called Palaces by Arthur Evans. The Sacred Centers were the ritual heart of the surrounding communities. They were community gathering places, places where rituals were performed, and provided communal storage areas for a portion of the harvest and workshop space for the creation of sacred objects from clay, stone, bronze, silver, and gold.


Sacred Horns. Celebrate the importance of cows, bulls, and oxen in Ariadnian society. Horns like bones outlive the flesh and may become a symbol of death and regeneration.  The sacred horns symbol echoes twin peaks or breasts of mountains and the upraised arms of women in ritual. Oxen were the main “beasts of burden” in Ariadnian culture which did not have the wheel. The Sacred Cow has been revered in many cultures for her gift of milk. Horns occur on both female and male animals unless they are bred out or removed surgically.

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