Our human species generally grows hair long enough to braid, a natural expedient for keeping it out of one's eyes. According to Germanic mythologogy, the inventor of twine or rope was the god Odin, (or, Wotan), characterized as one-eyed--which here may mean insight and a capacity for self-awareness. He is said to have plucked three hairs (sufficient to exemplify the principle of braiding) from the tail of the Night Mare, making a line with which to lasso same, then to serve as reins. With these lines Odin domesticated the horse, to his own mount he gave the name Sleipnir. Some early innovations in the science of knots would have led to halters and bridles developed by the descendants of early Indo-European migrants to Asia Minor. The Horse People, such as those of ancient Troy whose two major trade industries were spinning wool and breeding horses, probably would have been common ancestors to both Greek and Germanic tribes, since the Norse poets recite the wanderings of Odin from Ilium. Odin himself hanged for nine days and nine nights from the sacred ash tree, and sacrificed his eye in order to learn the secrets of writing the runes: that is, a writing system by which tradition itself may be passed on.

The emblematic survival of hair as rope can be seen in children's stories, such as Rapunzel, who let down her braided golden locks from the high window of her tower prison, for the enchantress and eventually for the prince to climb. In the Greek myth set on the island of Crete, Ariadne's tresses were likely braided to form the clew unwound by Theseus in his transit of the Labyrinth. Robert Graves identifies Theseus, the legendary Prince of Athens, as a complex figure who accumulates credit for an increasing number of exploits but whose early nature--and adventure in the Labyrinth--was, like that of Daedalus, the Labyrinth's designer, a type of solar hero.

A clue to sorting out their roles may be provided by the word CLUE itself. Many speakers of American English do not appreciate the confusion of meaning and spelling in the two forms of the word: CLEW and CLUE. The latter is a variant of the former, earlier word. The primary meaning of the term CLEW is "a fact, etc. leading (through difficulty) to a solution or discovery" or "anything that guides or directs in the solution of a problem or mystery." In the form CLEW, the word also has the separate meaning of "a ball of yarn or thread," which the American Heritage Dictionary explains under the subheading Greek Mythology: "The ball of thread used by Theseus as a guide through the labyrinth of Minos on Crete."

[The first definition is from The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, edited by C. T. Onians (1966); the second from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, edited by William Morris (1975), our standard reference--both entries are found sub verbum.]


The story of Theseus and the Labyrinth is known to many American schoolchildren from having read Nathaniel Hawthorne's Tanglewood Tales. The mythological elements are every bit as involved as the title of Hawthorne's volume suggests; indeed, the probably Paleolithic device of a brushwood maze (for trapping either wild bulls or mating partridges) may have supplied the original model for the Labyrinth. In the story's most popular episode, the hero Theseus ties to the entrance of the Labyrinth the end of the clew-- the ball of twine--given to him by the Cretan princess Ariadne, unwinding the line as he penetrates the dark interior, armed with a sword (in some versions) and bent on executing the maiden's half-brother, the monster Minotaur.

Unlike the mythological Centaur, with a horse's body and human head, arms and torso, the Minotaur has a human body with a head from the genus bos, as described by the Greek tragic poet Euripides, "A form commingled, and a monstrous birth, half man, half bull, in two-fold shape combined." The twentieth-century painter Pablo Picasso was fascinated by the Minotaur image, which he used as a quasi-autobiographical symbol of animal strength combined with innocence; the character of Theseus, however, Picasso either ignores, or associates with cunning and cruelty, thus reversing the traditional heroic label given him by the Greeks. The symbolism of horse and bull in Picasso's great work Guernica (1937) has been explored extensively, but he first became interested in the theme when commissioned by Albert Skira, in 1931, to illustrate the Minotaur legend in Ovid's Metamorphoses.

In 1933 Skira founded a new literary and artistic magazine which he called Minotaure, and Picasso drew a picture of the Minotaur for the cover of the first issue [in the center of a Labyrinth made from lace and corrugated paper]. As was so often the case, his imagination went on playing round the idea, and in the same year he did a series of eleven etchings showing the Minotaur in various unprecedented situations--drinking with artists, sleeping, making drowsy or ferocious love to naked girls....Skira's Minotaure went on for twelve more issues, coming to an end only in 1939. It published work by practically every avant-garde writer of the day, and the cover of each issue was designed by an eminent artist as a variation on the Minotaur theme, although the reason for its name was left a mystery. The cover of issue No. 2 was by Derain (a bull's head against Tarot cards); No. 7 by Mir (a bull's head); No. 10 by Magritte (a draped figure with a bull's skull; No. 11 by Max Ernst (a green bull's head); and Nos. 12-13, published together, contained a labyrinth by Diego Riviera showing Theseus and Ariadne as primitive Catalan nudes, the yellow thread twisting in and out, cells or hollows in the tunnel filled with bones, and in the centre the Minotaur bent back in the agony of death.

[Anne G. Ward, W. R. Connor, Ruth B. Edwards, and Simon Tidworth, The Quest for Theseus, Praeger Publishers, New York (1970), p. 244.]

Duchamp's cover for Minotaure was commissioned for Volume II, No. 6 (1935), and featured

A reproduction of Corolles, one of the Rotoreliefs which Duchamp had just introduced at the Paris inventors' fair...superimposed on a background of Man Ray's photograph Dust Breeding (1920).

[D'Harnoncourt and McShine, p. 321.]

The Labyrinth, in its associations with the sub-conscious mind as the lair of the Minotaur, was a favorite subject for the Surrealists, and this may help to explain the choice of title by Mr. Skira, the publisher. The theme was frequently illustrated by the ancient Greeks, from the early archaic period right through Classical times. Although the scene was set in Crete, Theseus was an Athenian hero, not Cretan, and the myth helped to explain for the Attic Greeks the question of their cultural origins, especially those of patriarchal institutions. The manifold myth is also an account of a hero's archetypal journey, which aspect occupies our primary attention in the present context. The clew (thread, ball of twine) may be taken to represent the essential idea of the continuity of human consciousness. As it applies to a whole people, the extended myth--particularly in the episodes of Daedalus and Icarus--treats the profound problems of cultural continuity and the means for transmitting an essential spirit of creativity and innovation, including the symbolic ways (such as Odin's runes or Jung's notion of archetypes) people have devised by which to transmit both individual and collective self-knowledge involving shared aspects of mind. An even deeper significance of the myth relates to the processes of awareness or consciousness itself.

The notion of a twisted, winding pathway is easily associated with the birth process and the umbilical cord; as well, the imagery might be associated with death, for example, as with the appearance of the intestines and other internal organs--experiences from which earlier humans were not so shielded as we are today. In her survey of early art and artifacts from Old Europe, Marija Gimbutas illustrates several labyrinthine motifs, some of great antiquity, such as that engraved on a stela from an Irish passage grave (County Meath) of the fourth millennium, contrived to also represent the image of on owl.

From prehistoric times to the present day the owl has been considered a harbinger of death....It is credited with profound wisdom, oracular powers, and the ability to avert evil....This ambivalent image is a dim reflection, diffused through time, of the owl as an incarnate manifestation of the fearsome Goddess of Death ....The Goddess' owl face on a very fine sculpture discovered at Knowth West, Ireland, is immersed in a labyrinthine design probably symbolic of life-giving waters, in the center of which is a vulva.

[Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess, Harper and Row, San Francisco, (1989), pp. 190 ff.]

A very similar meander pattern appears on what are known as Egyptian "button seals" in the British Museum. Matthews cites a steatite plaque in the collection of Sir Flinders Petrie at University College, London, that was "acquired" at Memphis, and dates from around 3000 BC. Two seated human stick figures can be made out in the pattern which, according to Sir Arthur Evans, the excavator of Knossos, are perhaps related to the hieroglyph mr (the sign used for indicating irrigated land), and the simple square meanders may relate to the sign aha, used for the plan of a palace court, and a figure to which one of the Minoan signs bears a close resemblance.

[W. H. Mathews, Mazes and Labyrinths: Their History and Development, originally published by Longmans, Green & Co., London (1922); Dover edition (1970), p. 43 f. See also p. 13, citing Sir Flinders Petrie, The Labyrinth, Gerzeh and Mazghuneh, (1912).]

Among the most charming and well-known representations of the Cretan labyrinth in its standard ("Classical") form, was the graffito discovered in excavations at Pompeii, obviously intended to provide a commentary on the personality of the dweller within:

...on the surface of a crimson painted pillar in the peristyle of the building known as the House of Lucretius...evidently scratched with a nail or stylus by some idler of 2000 years ago [Pompeii was buried by ash from the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD]...accompanied by the words [with the Labyrinth in the center]




[Matthews, Mazes and Labyrinths, p. 45.]

From the same survey of Labyrinth representations (and other mazes), we may need to add here just one further example, which documents the evolution of the theme from a rude jibe scrawled on a street wall, to the Labyrinth appreciated at the other end of the social scale, as "a design fit for the Emperor's clothes," for so may the following "heading" given by Matthews in Latin be translated:

A manuscript was discovered by A. F. Ozanam in the Laurentian Library at Florence. It is entitled Graphia Aurea Urbis Romae and contains, under the heading "De diarodino imperatoris," the following passage [we here give only his translation]:

"Let there be represented on it (the Emperor's robe) a labyrinth of gold and pearls, in which is the Minotaur, made of emerald, holding his finger to his mouth, thus signifying that, just as none may know the secret of the labyrinth, so none may reveal the Emperor's counsels."

It has been pointed out by Mr. A. B. Cook that in the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge is a painting by Bartolomeo Veneto (1502-1530) representing an unknown man who wears on his breast a labyrinth resembling that described above.

[Matthews, Mazes and Labyrinths, p. 53.]

Often told and retold, the myth itself became a veritably knotted and gnarled ball of twine--extremely involved, but just possibly subject to untangling. The story has been a source of continuing interest for artists: passed on and illustrated in a varied but always present tradition from archaic Greece, through Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Early Christian, Medieval, and Renaissance periods right down to modern times. It has been edited, revised, moralized, bowdlerized, perverted and censored--obviously one of the all-time, self-referential favorites of artists and other creative spirits.

Daedalus, the premier mythic architect for the ancient Greeks, represented for them the creative artist, a sort of heroic demiurge who was also credited with the invention of representational forms in large-scale kinetic sculpture that, in some versions, he cast in bronze. The type of art object indicated by this story is reminiscent of the notorious Golden Calf of Aaron: that is, an idol dedicated to the worship of the Deity symbolically represented by the genus bos: either as a male Bull (Anu in Mesopotamia, Min in Egypt, Zeus in Greece), or as a female cow (Hathor in Egypt, Rhea and Io in Crete and Greece). The time-line for this pattern of religious observance, must extend from the magnificent representations of related (but later extinct) species of aurochs on the walls and ceilings of Paleolithic caves in southern France and northern Spain, down through the fascina-ting bull shrines excavated by James Mellaart at atal Hyk in Anatolia dating from around 6000 BC where, among many different horned altars, was a shrine with a series of relief sculptures showing female figures giving birth to bull's heads. Either through arrogance or intellectual habit, we refer to these archaic practices as "cults," although in doing so, the condescension we betray probably does an enormous disservice to profound and beautiful religious ideas that, after all, seem to have persisted over an impressive span of time.


After sufficient and suitable reflection, we may venture to speculate about the origins of those obscure beliefs and practices. Some of the cave representations of the Paleolithic Period certainly had to do with hunting, and the Neolithic Anatolian representations of the seventh and sixth millennium suggest that from these beginnings evolved a very sophisticated religion among citizens of complex and highly-evolved, settled communities, members of which were engaged in the capture and domestication of once-wild cattle. The idea of the cave itself may have supplied the inspiration for inventing a maze or some such labyrinthine structure: the corral as an instrument of technology into which freely ranging cattle could be driven, by even quite small bands of people working cooperatively using strategically set fires, or by individuals through the magic of dance.

According to evidence collected by George Bird Grinnell, who traveled among the Native American Blackfoot tribe in the Wild West of Montana in the 1870s, the sacred object of the buffalo shaman who, with his dance, lured animals into the pis'kun (buffalo trap) made of rocks and bushes formed into a V-chute, was a bull buffalo's head and robe, and all those who danced were to wear these emblems.

The picture in the huge paleolithic temple-cave known as Trois Frères, in southern France, of a buffalo-dancer wearing precisely the ceremonial garb established in this legend, and functioning, apparently, in the way of the brave shaman whose power it was to lure the animals to their fall, gives a clue--or more than a clue, I should say, a very strong suggestion--to the antiquity of the legend...or, at least, of its theme. Furthermore, in the neighboring cave, known as Tuc d'Audoubert [discovered in 1912], there is a chamber in which two bison are represented in bas-relief on a raised prominence, around which the footsteps of a dancer have been found. The bison represent a cow being mounted by a bull; and the dance was performed not on the full soles of the feet, but on the heels in imitation of the hooves of a beast.

[Campbell, Primitive Mythology, p. 286. For Grinnell, see p. 282. See John J. Putman, "The Search for Modern Humans," National Geographic (October 1988), p. 442-3; Tuc d'Audoubert is dated about 12,000 BCE.]

The Cambridge University archaeologist Paul Bahn describes and interprets the very same figure wearing the horned mask and bison robe in the Magdalenian cave at Trois Frres, concluding that shamanic beliefs and practices not only existed, but also played an important role in producing what are among the world's earliest works of art.

Although we can accept that the practice of sympathetic magic and the actual depiction of hunting may account for a small amount of Palaeolithic art, the evidence for them is extremely scarce. However, there is a related phenomenon which could lie behind rather more of the art: shamanism....The shaman is a very important figure, being a person with spiritual powers who combines the role of healer, priest, magician and artist, as well as poet, actor and even psycho-therapist! His most important function is to act as liason between this world and the spirit world, a task usually performed by means of trances and hallucinatory experiences-- either self-induced or using hallucinogenic fungi or other similar substances....A closely related view, based on concepts widely held among modern hunting peoples, concerns the "master-of-animals," usually a dead shaman; this humanoid or composite figure represents a third force mediating between living shamans and animals, one which constitutes the life-force of an animal or which can impart life-force to it. The living shamans derive their own life-force from the animals and then use it in the service of their clients. According to this scenario, the artists were shamans maintaining links with the animals (with which they closely identified) through the master-of-animals; the power derived from the art came through the act of drawing, not from subsequent viewing.

[Bahn and Vertut, Images of the Ice Age, p. 157 f.]

By first capturing a pregnant cow, the eventual calf could then represent the beginnings of a domestic herd. With the sagacity derived from many generations of hunting, a soft (sort of T'ai Chi) approach might have been employed, utilizing the attractive power of pheremones from a cow in heat to attract candidates for breeding stock. The same kind of cordage that we know was used at Lascaux around 15,000 BC would have supplied the essential equipment for tethering and for otherwise controlling the accumulated herd, once corralled. Adapting the design of net-like devices including lassos and lariats doubtless paralleled the archaic evolution of basketry--and enabled the increas-ingly aggressive acquisition and successful domestication of animals.

Such a pecuniary exploitation of nature's bounty by the Earth's original cowboys was greatly advanced by the domestication of the horse and by refining the art of horsemanship--probably by those Indo-European tribes living north of what is now called the Black Sea. Just what "domestication" might mean covers a wide range of human activity: from random predation to following wild herds, to more controlled herding, to confined breeding programs, or modern factory farming. With cattle, there is added uncertainty about just where domestication might have occurred, since they ranged from Morocco, North Africa and the Nile Delta to southern Sweden, and from England to Manchuria.

The range of wild cattle was so great that a distribution map tells us very little about the region(s) of initial domestication.

[J. R. Harlan, "Plant and Animal Distribution in Relation to Domesti-cation," The Early History of Agriculture, A Symposium Organised Jointly for the Royal Society and the British Academy by Sir Joseph Hutchinson, Grahame Clark, E. M. Jope, and R. Riley, published for the British Academy by Oxford University Press (1976), p. 21.]

Compounding these difficulties are others of a methodological nature. The academic approach to studies of early animal domestication has favored an approach generally "within the framework of zoological hypotheses," tending to ignore the human, archaeological interaction with a species, and concentrating instead on distinguishing wild from domestic based on morphological divergences and formal terminology.

There is a concentration upon the animals involved in the relationship, the human partner being commonly relegated to a secondary role, if indeed he is considered at all...the tendency being increasingly to insist on a nomenclature which stresses the separation of [wild and domestic]. In this way wild cattle, Bos primigenius, are distinguished from domestic cattle, Bos taurus, in terms of their larger size, differences of skull and horn conformation, and so on.

[M. R. Jarman, "Early Animal Husbandry," Early History of Agriculture, p. 85 f.]

What the modern terminology plainly does suggest is largely borne out by the archaeology: domestication of cattle culminated during a period of some 2000 (we reckon ideally as 2160) years corresponding--as a purposive, significant coincidence, and not merely by accident--to the position of the constellation Taurus relative to the sun at the time of the vernal equinox, that is, from circa 4000 to 2000 BC.


Daedalus, the designer of the famous Labyrinth that housed the Minotaur, was himself later shut up by his patron, King Minos, who, as a consequence of attempting to institute his new style of patriarchal rule developed an obsessive anxiety about paternity or any potentially competing lines of genetic descent. Like Rapunzel of the fairytale, Daedalus was locked away in a tower keep where, as one of the world's early innovators in aeronautical engineering, he fashioned beeswax wings for himself and his son Icarus, with which they escaped by flying to freedom. In a dénoument (in French, literally an "untying" of the knot) that turns the myth into a cautionary tale, Daedalus--acknowledged by the mythographer Thomas Bullfinch as "a most skilful artificer"--is supposed to have failed as a flight instructor, since Icarus flew too close to the sun and his wax wings melted. Another reading of this story identifies Icarus with those heroes who, ever since the Sumerian legend about Gilgamesh, must dive into the divine ocean in order to seize the prize: the Herb of Immortality, the Fabled Elixir, the Philosopher's Stone, the Golden Ring, or Enlightenment.

Daedalus flew on, presumably visiting all those sites where people have found the Cretan Labyrinth--or its variant forms--cut into rocks: not only around the Mediterranean (especially the island of Sardinia), but around the Baltic as well, and throughout Scandanavia and Great Britain. He is supposed to have landed at Cumae, and while nothing is said about Daedalus teaching pottery or transmitting some modified form of a Phoenecian syllabary to which he might have added notations for all the vowels used in Greek, the exact figure of the Cretan Labyrinth was carved on the rock entrance to the cave of the Cumaean Sibyl, where it was duly noted by Aeneas when he also landed there--having fled Asia Minor after the Trojan War. Daedalus and Minos did meet again, they say in Sicily, where the story line turned into a shell game with some strange twists. But it has not yet been explained how Daedalus flew to the second story of a pre-Columbian Hohokam adobe structure at Casa Grande, Arizona, where there was inscribed and can still be seen the form (with its corners slightly rounded but in precise agreement with the topological values, and so, NOT some mere approximation) of the Cretan Labyrinth.

The unmistakable floor plan of the Labyrinth, regarded by the Greeks as symbolizing the beginnings of architecture itself, shows that it would serve very poorly as a prison. There are no doors, nor--in its standard form, anyway--is there even a single bifurcation of the pathway; there is, in fact, only one path in to the center, although it does twist around and turn back upon itself in ways that may be thought cleverly deceptive, and the path goes in and out, passing furthest from the goal (back along the "outside" wall) before arriving at the center. One of the empirical ways to solve two-dimensional mazes and labyrinths is simply to traverse the path with always one hand on a wall. If we enter this Labyrinth, say, with our hand on the wall to the left (or right) we cannot fail to arrive at the center. At the heart of the mysterious Labyrinth was the mythical Minotaur, the imaginary being imprisoned in that magical structure's dark interior spaces. If we encounter no Minotaur there, we may of course continue until we emerge once again, but (because the direction of our path has changed) our hand will be on what (when entering) we might have regarded as the "right hand" (or "left hand") wall.

Evidently, travel within the Labyrinth is in either one of two directions: in or out. Among the Hopi of the American Southwest, a graphic representation still in use today is identitical in form to the Cretan Labyrinth. It is called the "glyph of emergence," and is read as a symbolic image for creation--not only in the metaphorical sense of artistic creativity, which only became current in Western Europe following Goethe--but for the Creation, the Birth of the World. The directionality obviously proceeds from the center outward. It should be said here that the Hopi also use other similar labyrinth forms: one in which the rectangular format is drawn (as on some coins from Knossos) with rounded lines, though preserving the topological characteristics of the original, and another made up of two separate paths that generally follow the switchback pattern of the single path of the Cretan Labyrinth. These designs are used to teach each generation about the Hopi migrations, when the ancient clans wandered to the extreme four corners of both the North and South American continents.

Apart from the idea of megalithic labyrinths associated with dolmens, barrows and tumuli--intriguing, but difficult to document-- the ancient Greeks knew of another "labyrinth" that pre-dated the Cretan one. The travelling historian Herodotus recorded a visit to such a structure at Hawwara in Egypt, but he describes a huge building complex of a rather different shape, a funerary temple for the 12th Dynasty Pharaoh Ammenemes III (1859-1814 BCE). It was apparently a two-story edifice containing chapels for each of the twelve nomes or administrative districts of ancient Egypt; the bottom floor may have been flooded with water from nearby Lake Moeris. The actual site in the Fayum, to the east of where the lake extended and just south of the pyramid at Hawwara, was confirmed by Sir Flinders Petrie in 1888.

The word LABYRINTH is not Greek; some early twentieth-century scholars proposed an etymology from the Lydian labrys, referring to the double axe that was among the most ubiquitous symbols of Minoan (ancient Cretan) civilization. The combined form could be taken to mean "House of the Double Axes." Originally this weapon was a thunder-bolt, wielded by Rhea, the wife of Saturn who reigned on Earth in the Golden Age. The archaeological manifestation was made of flint, and in the Minoan and Mycenaean religions was said to have been withheld from male use, reinforcing the idea that it may represent a ritualized form of the archaic sharp- edged implement used to sever the umbilical cord at birth. Indeed, the labrys, or double axe, was a major Minoan decorative element on wall frescoes, in architecture and ceramics, and was represented in exquisitely designed gold jewelery. The inspired archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann found a miniature representation of a bull's head with a Cretan double axe positioned between its horns cut from a sheet of gold in shaft grave IV at Mycenae. From the same grave also came a marvelous bull's-head rhyton fashioned of silver from the infamous slave-worked mines of Laurion, and adorned with gold; set between the gold-plated horns, is an embossed gold rosette with sixteen petals, precisely marking the bull's forelock.

[Roland Hampe and Erika Simon, The Birth of Greek Art: From the Mycenaean to the Archaic Period, Oxford University Press (1981), p. 198, plate 315; for the rhyton, p. 87, plate 127.]

The first settlers of Crete, who arrived about 6000 BCE, might well have come from, or through, Lydia--an area in what we now call Turkey or Asia Minor, which we have seen was anciently associated with gold mining and later with the minting of coins. The migration would have occurred within the time frame of the flourishing Neolithic cattle worship. Even though sites such as Çatal Hüyük are far inland, there were trade routes through the Taurus Mountains to the Levantine coast (and Tyre which is mentioned in the myth). Alternatively, routes lead westward from the Anatolian Plateau, through Hacilar which rose to prominence after Çatal Hüyük's demise, or Sardis, the later but still venerable capital of Lydia. This passage probably followed rivers such as the Maeander flowing from Beycesultan to Miletus; such a route would have effectively shortened the journey to the coastline of Ionia and to the islands of the eastern Aegean as stepping stones to Crete.

The gold, jewelery, and regal opulence that so influenced the ancient Minoan civilization on Crete might also have come from Egypt to the south. Martin Bernal, in his industrious and intelligent study Black Athena, proposes a much greater contact between Egypt and the Levant in the formative stages of Aegean civilization than most Eurocentric academics of the last few centuries have been prepared to acknowledge. While conceeding that cow- and bull-worship may have enjoyed a Neolithic flourishing in the high plains of Anatolia--as documented by the extraordinary finds as Çatal Hüyük--these ritual practices had apparently died out--at least at that site--fully some three thousand years prior to their appearance, around 2100 BC, in Crete. Another possibility is that the first part of the word LABYRINTH may relate to a prenomen of the Egyptian Ammenemes, and the second part, -inthos, may be cognate with the Greek anthos "flower, growth," deriving from the Egyptian ntr meaning "divine" in a pantheistic sense of growth.


The background myth of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth tells how the maiden Europa was tending her cows (which suggests her affinities with the Egyptian Hathor and other Cow-goddesses Hera, Astarte, Io, and Isis), near Tyre, along the shores of the eastern Mediterranean, in the days before disastrous over-grazing by Semitic nomads with their herds of shoot-snipping sheep and omnivorous goats. One of the patriarchal gods--some say Zeus, others Poseidon--joined the herd in the form of a snow white bull with a single black streak between its gem-like horns. She made garlands and adorned the gentle bull with blossoms, and while carrying her basket of flowers in her left hand Europa was enticed to hold on to its right horn and go surfing. Once on the island of Crete, near Gortyna (Carten is the Cretan word for "cow"), the god changed into the form of an eagle then raped and ravaged the girl. Europa bore him three sons (Minos, Sarpedon and Rhadamanthys) and remained on the Mediterranean island where she married the reigning king, named Asterius ("of the starry sky"), who was childless and agreed to adopt the three semi-divine offspring.

When they reached maturity, these sons of Europa quarreled over their inheritance which was to have been in three equal parts. Minos built an altar to Poseidon in advance, then claimed his right to rule all by boasting that whatever prayer he offered would be answered. As proof, the god caused a great white bull to rise up from the sea foam for Minos to sacrifice upon his altar. This, however, he failed to do, putting the bull in with his own herd, and sacrificing merely the next finest animal in its stead. This might have been read by the Greeks as an act of hubris or god-challenging pride; today we might see it as corruption by envy or greed. For Greeks, in any event, Minos acquired the derogatory nickname "Tyrant Holdfast," meaning one who, while in a position of authority, abuses the public trust by converting a portion of the commonwealth to become his own private property. Herein lies an important key to interpreting the lineage of Minos in the myth.

The Egyptian god Min had a thunderbolt attribute like a Buddhist double-ended vajra or rDorje (or the Chinese character for "tree") which may have evolved into the Cretan icon of the double axe, and from which the lightning bolt of Zeus and the trident of Poseidon may both derive. The earliest examples of Min's mysterious symbol date from at least the 1st Dynasty (3400-3000 BCE) and "resemble a double-headed arrow." They are tentatively identified as "two fossil belemnites," very similar to those held by archaic statues of Zeus. Belemnites are pointed, cigar-shaped fossils, the internal shells of an extinct cephalopod related to the cuttlefish. In folklore such fossils are widely called "thunderstones." In front of Min's earliest temples were erected two ceremonial poles, the hieroglyphic symbol for which

seems to represent a bull's head or horns on a staff together with an unwinding spiral....The spiral's significance is unclear. It could be a herder's crook and/or, more likely, an ammonite, one of the commonest fossilized gastropods, shaped like a coiled --though naturally headless snake--which may itself have been seen as a thunderbolt. The ammonite was named after Amon and it is almost certain that others saw the resemblance and hence connection between the ram's horn of Am(m)on and the ammonites before medieval scholars called the fossil Cornu Ammonis from which the modern name comes.

[Bernal, Black Athena, II., p. 169.]

Fossilized ammonites are still to be found in the cliffs of Cleveland by Whitby. This is the eastern English seaport from which Captain Cook sailed for, and to which he returned from, his explorations of New Zealand and the South Seas, and the port into which the mysterious ship of Count Dracula sailed on a dark and stormy night in Bram Stoker's famous gothic horror story. The typical collar worn by Roman Catholic priests has prompted their waggish, anti-clerical Irish identification as "the real vampires" who hide their own necks, a custom which would thus predate the characterizations of Stoker and Bela Lugosi by over a millennium. The ammonite fossils, thought to be coiled serpents in the British Isles as in Egypt, were collected by pilgrims to Whitby as holy souvenirs, and had explicit associations with the Celtic practice of meditation that (not by mere coincidence) in India is called kundalini or, "the serpent power." In some very beautiful Jurassic examples of Dactylioceras (from 135-180,000,000 years ago), the spaces occupied by the original animal, whose growth patterns exhibit a logarithmic spiral, have been subsequently filled with gem- like calcite. Accordingly, the fossils may be understood as tokens of the real "snakes" driven out of Ireland-- supposedly by St. Patrick in 432 AD--by which was meant a particular practice of holy meditation, and not reptiles of the sub-order Serpentes, that were found neither any more on Erin by Patrick than they were on Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand) by Cook.

Martin Bernal associates the ammonite spiral with a "herder's crook" adding new depth to the significance of the English Caedmon. He was a humble layman, reputed to have been the nation's first poet, a cowherd (or "cowan") who inherited the spiritual legacy of the people's language (that was to become English) when the Synod of Whitby decreed that only the imported Latin tongue could be used for prayers and hymns (thereby insuring the power of city-dwelling bishops over rural abbesses and abbots), when women (contrary to the native Celtic traditions) became "unworthy" to serve priestly functions, and when Easter, henceforth, was to be celebrated only on Sunday.

The labyrinth continued to exert a pronounced influence, especially on country life in the British Isles. Turf-cut mazes in a variety of innovative forms became a popular diversion, and a favorite element in the planning of English gardens that came to adorn the estates of entrepreneurs built with new wealth sucked from colonial enterprises fast coalescing into empire. One of the first and most famous of these outdoor mazes was constructed (in AD 1132?) on the grounds at Woodstock, during the reign (1100-1135) of Henry I, the youngest son of the Norman, William the Conquerer. The site, near Oxford, at North latitude 51 degrees, 51 seconds (the base angle of the Great Pyramid) is important as the first royal park in England. The park concept--in spite of all the associations with privilege, based on conquest and exploitation, so distasteful for the democratic spirit--has had the practical result of preserving what little remains of native woodland in the English countryside. His successor, King Henry II (1133-1189), in a favorite tale of romance, took the daughter of Walter de Clifford, Fair Rosamond, as his mistress. He arranged trysts with her in the secluded recesses of the rose bower, intending (unsuccessfully) to avoid detection by his Queen, the formidable Eleanor of Aquitane.

Later these lands were given to the Duke of Marlborough and renamed Blenheim after the scene of his great victory. Sir John Vanbrugh was commissioned to build the Palace, the very manor to which Winston Churchill was later born. Its construction became a stop-and-start affair, for shifting political expedients through the reign of Queen Anne rendered governmental funding problematical, while the memory of the Duke's glory receded from the immediate concerns of Parliament. At one stage, Vanbrugh proposed razing Rosamond's Bower on the grounds near the building site, but was met with a popular outcry and desisted. It seems that young couples in love, in the springtime, could find there a traditional place and occasion for sweet dalliance in the erstwhile regal manner among the roses.