Tuesday, June 28, 2005
BEEFING UP on the Minoans
Minoan Goddess (Reconstruction)
Not too long ago, I got this email from Anne:
"Hi! I'm Anne, I left a comment on your blog a while back. I consider myself a Goddess womyn but I've only begun my studies. I'd like to learn more about the Minoans and ancient Crete and I thought you'd be a good person to ask. Is there a book on the subject you could recommend to someone with no archaeological background? I've had Anthropology 101, but that's about it.
Thanks so much. Blessed be
To which I replied:
"Good books on the Minoans are scarce as birds' teeth. The magnificent Minoans are the center of an academic firestorm, with men fearing to admit women once ruled the closest thing we have to human Utopia -- lest they lose their privileged positions -- and women afraid because men are their archaeological masters. The result: books on Minoans soaked with fear-sweat and baby pablum.
"Keeping this in mind, I recommend three books.
"First, Jacquetta Hawkes' Dawn of the Gods. It's old, but as far as I can tell Hawkes was the last person to write with clarity about Minoan women, power, and female deity (in a general work on Minoan civilization at least). What's more, her illustrations are stunning. Remember, however, that Hawkes was demonized for daring to suggest that Minoan women might have ruled. That this archaeologist should have been so sullied for suggesting so little (she even said her theory would be overturned as more archaeological evidence came to light), is a clear index of how fear-driven and patriarchally-dominated our archaeological establishment is.
"Second, J. Lesley Fitton's Minoans (2002) will catch you up on current research. Unfortunately, Fitton begins her religion section by demeaning the Goddess. For example, even though the Minoan Goddess is omnipresent and Minoan Gods appear almost not at all, Fitton's section on deity is entitled 'Gods and Goddesses.'
"Next, one of her first statements in this section is '...What God or Gods were thought to preside over [the Minoans]?' Next, she makes two preposterous statements: (1) '...We must admit ... that we have great difficulty making the identification securely [as to whether any human depicted in Minoan art is a deity or not].' (2) 'Some scholars have even questioned whether the Minoans ever represented deities anthropomorphically' (p. 175).
"After making certain the world knows that J. Lesley Fitton is giving Goddess nothing but low-level status, THEN Fitton describes Her. She makes it clear that current theorists do not really doubt Her existence (despite her -- Fitton's -- claims above); 'Her human attendants are usually female'; very often She is seated and 'clearly receiving offerings'; etc.
"Like the fear-riddled puppet she is, however, Fitton jumps a mile to protest the idea that Minoan women had political power: 'The presence, indeed the importance of women in Minoan iconography cannot be denied.... The Goddess ... had female acolytes, and women are shown in privileged positions alongside men in large-scale gatherings .... [However] it would be simplistic to extrapolate from this a society in which women held social and political sway...' (p. 178).
"One wonders why Fitton neglects to let us in on the dirty little secret that women outnumber men about two to one in Minoan art. And isn't it curious that if Fitton's so certain women had no political power, why does she fail to offer even one shred of evidence to back her claim?
"Next Fitton overglorifies the Minoan 'God.' She fails to mention this: although no one disputes the Goddess character of several Minoan Goddess representations, I know of not one 'God' representation that everyone agrees is a God. Neither does Fitton point to the differential numbers of Goddess vs God representations; Goddess figures abound; Gods are pitifully few.
"I'd recommend the next and third book only if you want something more scholarly than Fitton. It is Oliver Dickinson's 1994 The Aegean Bronze Age. Although Dickinson lacks the courage to speak much about Goddess, he at least refrains from belittling Her: '...The whole topic [of the Minoan Goddess] needs to be examined outside the framework inherited from the past, which is so heavily dependent upon questionable theories and methods. There is not the space here for such an examination, and this discussion will concentrate more upon evidence for ritual sites and activities ... rather than upon the number and nature of the power(s) with which these are to be associated' (pp 259-260).
"I also appreciate Dickinson's courage for admitting that 'It is not impossible that ... Minoan religion developed in a highly individual fashion; certainly, it has many distinctive features... (p. 259).'
"Then, however, Dickinson diminishes himself by going to great lengths to force war upon the Minoans:
"Fact: We can't find any Minoan weapons.
"Dickinson: Oh, that's easy. They must have been made of wood. Yeah, that's it. They were made of wood. The Minoans were loaded with wooden weapons.
"Fact: The Minoans didn't build military defense systems.
"Dickinson: Oh, that's easy too. They didn't have all-out war; they had little skirmishes. So that's why they didn't build defenses. Yeah, that's right. (pp. 42-43).
"Excuse me for a minute (Ha. Ha, ha, ha, hardy de har har!!! Oh, please, Goddess, let me catch my breath.... Loaded with wooden weapons?!? Hardy, hardy har, har, har, har, har, har...!)
"Ahem. Anne, I hope this helps.