CHAPTER SEVEN: ONES
We may wonder whether the power that Minos really had to appease, when he became newly ensconced as King on Crete in 2000 BC, might not have been that of a female deity like the Egyptian Cow goddess Hathor. His Queen, Pasiphaë--whose name means "she who shines for all," as a goddess of the full moon--figures to have been reigning before him. In spite of failing to fulfill his vow of sacrifice to the bull god--whether that deity was called Poseidon, Zeus, or Min--the legendary Minos was still able to establish the idea of male royal rule sup- planting earlier customs (of Pasiphaë), associated with Neolithic Crete probably from the time it was first settled around 6000 BC (rather late, because of its relative isolation), down to the close of the third millennium. A group of Cretan figurines made during this span of time have been recovered from the rubbish heaps and debris of ancient domestic dwellings, but none from sites that could be identified as a shrine, tomb or temple. Most figures are identifiably female, but several are either male or of indeterminate sex, and may represent either children or more abstract conceptions of humanity.
The existence of even a few male figures makes the interpretation of the females as an all-important "Mother Goddess" difficult, without allowing the possibility of the equal existence of a male deity.
[Margaret Ehrenberg, Women in Prehistory (Oklahoma Series in Classical Culture), University of Oklahoma Press, Norman and London (1989), p. 70.]
Within a century or so of 2000 BCE, however, came an influx of Levantine and Egyptian materials, techniques and social reorganization marking the end of the periods called Early Minoan III and the beginning of Middle Minoan I. Whatever may have been the prior sexual bases for distribution of power and authority on Crete, the pattern of life appears to have been largely rural and decentralized. But changes toward the end of the third millennium were dramatic, and have been directly associated with the new institution of kingship, and with its corollaries of palaces and patriarchy, control of wealth and the con- centration of power through imposed customs of patrilineal descent.
Some scholars, citing later Bronze Age archaeological evidence from Crete--in particular the frescoes excavated by Sir Arthur Evans at Knossos and at other palace sites, that feature women actively participating in daily life-- have proposed that an exalted status for women characterized the whole of Minoan life. Evaluating these arguments first means sorting out the frequently confounded ideas of matriliny (descent reckoned through the female line) and matrilocality (married couples residing with the woman's family) from those of matriarchy (with dominant social and political control by women).
However, although it may be possible to gain some insight into women's roles from the activities in which they are portrayed, the mere fact of pictures of women certainly cannot be used as evidence of high status....[I]n our own society, for instance, pictures of women--even naked large-breasted women, for which we find parallels in Minoan art--predominate in certain magazines and newspapers, in advertising and the like. But these images are created entirely for the pleasure of men [or, overwhelmingly so], and far from reflecting female dominance, they are actually symptomatic of the low status of women in our society....
Taken at face value, it certainly seems that élite women may have had more status and participated in a wider range of activities than women in many other societies. But...we still have little or no basis for considering the lives of the majority of women living in the contryside, and it cannot be assumed that because high-class women enjoyed some status within their own society, other women did too.
[Ehrenberg, Women in Prehistory, pp. 110 f., 118; see also p. 64 f.]
One clue to the symbolic importance of cow and bull for the processes of human births are the graphic similarities that have been noticed between the bucranium (or, bull's head and horns), and the uterus and fallopian tubes of the human female reproductive organs.
Marija Gimbutas, comparing illustrations of bulls from Çatal Hüyük with a diagram from a medical textbook, supposes that the fallopian tubes (which usually point down, but can sometimes be turned upward) could have been observed during the "excarnation process of burial." The soundness of this relationship, however, would seem to depend on an early, detailed, and rather sophisticated level of awareness about both anatomy and physiological function, for which there is scant supporting evidence. Nevertheless, there does appear to be an archaic association between labyrinthine forms and the human umbilical cord, which typically--as with the lengths of thread used by Marcel Duchamp in Three Standard Stoppages--measures about one meter. For example, Gimbutas illustrates engraved labyrinthine designs on red painted egg- or fish-shaped stones placed at the head of a shrine at the Lepenski Vir site in the Iron Gates region of Yujoslavia, and dating from around 6000 BC, and contemporary with atal Hyk in Anatolia.
[Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess, p. 157, See, p. 265 f. citing Dorothy Cameron, Symbols of Birth and Death in the Neolithic Era, Kenyon-Deane, London (1981).]
In the myth of King Minos, a Lightning god punished his greed and disdainful pride (the bull-sacrifice renege) by inducing a compelling surge of lustful bestiality (appropriate to both the Greek Pan and the Egyptian Min) that enflames, not Minos, but his Queen Pasipha. To fulfill her desires, the Queen awarded Daedalus his first commission:for a kinetic sculpture project! This was a life-sized effigy of the divine Cow goddess--which some say was of wood, others that it was cast in bronze--with wheels cunningly concealed in its hooves. The sacred white bull--withheld by King Minos from the promised sacrifice and added to his own herd--thereupon mounted the hollow statue. Somewhat as the (historically much later) Greek warriors entered the Trojan Horse, the Queen climbed in a disguised door--through what must have been a contraption like the back-flap of kiddies' pajamas--as one British author earlier in this century has so discreetly phrased it,
in order that she might interview the great white bull for which she had conceived an unnatural affection (the outcome being, in the words of Euripides, "A form commingled, and a monstrous birth, half man, half bull, in two-fold shape combined."
[Mathews, Mazes and Labyrinths, p. 22.]
Now, although mothers (according to the laws of nature) can all know with some certainty their own children, fathers--whether or not they are kings--can never be vouchsafed that same order of objective knowledge. This thought underlies the idea of Lewis Henry Morgan (adistinguished, early field anthropologist) that a matrilineal pattern of descent among early nomadic peoples was radically changed with the appearance of settled communities and notions of private property. This reflection prompted theories that the redistribution of wealth for every generation occurred in a system of matrilineal inheritance, whereas under a patriliny, the power of social institutions could be used to exploit resources and concentrate wealth favoring a line of descent that was, likely as not, arbitrarily designated "legitimate."
Morgan's arguments were taken up by Friedrich Engels in The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884). His theory was that women at first controlled the communal property of the family, but that when agriculture was introduced, men used, and therefore owned, the farming tools, especially ploughs and domesticated animals. Men thus became the first sex actually to own private property. In order to pass this on to their children, they had to introduce monogamy so that they could control the descent system....In a matrilineal system anything a man owns is inherited by his matrilineage, and so would go to his sister's children rather than his own; moreover, his children would belong to his wife's matrilineage. Under a system of patriliny, however, a man could have sexual monopoly over his wife, and economic or legal monopoly over her children. As a result women were subordinated economically, and restricted sexually....[Anthropologists point to counter evidence where women tend to have significant roles in foraging societies; for, among these] social organization is based on equality between individuals and between the sexes. Everyone has equal opportunity to put forward suggestions and have them listened to, and every individual has the right to make her or his own decision about what to do in any particular instance....One key to this equality is the lack of private property or possessions within the society, and the impossibility for a nomadic forager band of storing food. One person cannot therefore own more than another, nor can dependence or debt build up in a way which makes oppression and submission a likely outcome.
[Ehrenberg, Women in Prehistory, p. 64 f.]
Historians of social institutions might see in this irreducible, theoretical uncertainty of the father a serious chink in the blustering psychic armor of patriarchs, either producing or contributing mightily to anxiety about indeterminate paternity. This, in turn, would have contributed to the forging of marriage bonds that--as laws of men, rather than of nature--eventually defined women as chattels: the private property of, and under the "legislated," not natural--that is, technically arbitrary--control of husbands. Chattel means slave. Both of the words CHATTEL and CATTLE are from the Latin caput and the Indo-European kaput, meaning "head"; as a legal concept (of man-made, not natural law) it refers to privately owned, "pecuniary," moveable property, such as a man might count his head of cattle.
If, as appears, for the early Romans freedom was the affair of the procreative spirit in man, his genius, and slavery in some sense denied or put out of action the latter, one may guess that liber, the term applied to a man or to his head when the pro-creative spirit in him was naturally active thus, and Liber, the word used to designate the procreative or fertility god were one, and that it originally expressed a natural state, a distinctive activity or attribute of the procreative spirit or deity. (Thus we can also explain why for the young the attainment of membership of the community as a free citizen was identified with the attainment of procreative power and the outward emblem was the toga virilis or libera and it was assumed at the festival of Liber....Slaves in fact lost their sexual rights or initiative and power to refuse in the early Greek and Roman and other societies....But it was not only thus that the life soul was denied in slavery).
[Onians, The Origins of European Thought, p. 473 f., and notes.]
What else was lost by slaves--or forbidden them expresion, and forbidden as well to women, in so far as they had become chattels--included desire and the delicious delights of freedom. This is also attested by our English word FREE and its relationship to the Germanic fréon "to love" (and our word FRIEND) and to other words with meanings of "free, noble, joy, affection, seed, fertile," but especially "desiring and loving." By reflecting on these etymologies we may better appreciate how constraints upon freedoms and the pursuit of happiness threaten society with the specter of slavery; apparently so (by implication) do those institutions in which one sex or another imposes constraints on the creative and procreative acts of the other. It is deeply problematic whether the root history of our modern matrimonial conventions go back to the social and domestic innovations appearing in ancient Crete with "King Minos," or beyond that time to Egypt, Anatolia, and the Neolithic. Nonetheless, we can imagine with but little effort the nature of that embarrassment to Minos when Pasiphaë gave birth to the Minotaur. It was only after these events that Minos--then become King, having seized power as He Who Shines First Of All For Himself--gave Daedalus his second commission: to design the Labyrinth as a magical prison for holding the ambivalent, marvelous being, lest its presence roaming freely in the pasture reveal to the people, or remind them, of his divine transgression.
To have accomplished his first commission--the hollow, mobile piece of sculpture in the form of a cow on wheels, if it was indeed bronze--Daedalus must have been a student of applied entomology, with a particular interest in the order Hymnenoptera, family Apidae--that is to say, bees and their wax. Such wax was used by archaic Greek sculptors in their cire perdu (literally "lost wax") method of casting bronze pieces, long after similar metallurgical processes had been developed and refined in both Mesopotamia and Egypt. The queen bee was also one of the favorite subjects represented in the delicate filigreed and granulated gold jewelery of both Crete and Mycenae.
In payment for that original sculptural project, Daedalus was allowed to share, presumably, the favors of the Queen who shone for all. There are no other convincing accounts of the artist's "wife," nor any indications about who might have been the mother of his son Icarus. Neither are there records of what King Minos might have paid Daedalus for his fair day's work. Rather, in a gesture by King Minos of spiteful retribution, it seems both Daedalus and his son Icarus were shut up in a tower prison. We do not hear about the construction of any tower on Crete by Daedalus, but from the Egyptian tradition exemplified by the architectural complex of Hawwara at Lake Moeris, there was apparently a formal relationship between pyramid and labyrinth, as in the archetypal relationship between tower and abyss. The tower on Crete--as with Chinese temples, Hopi kivas, Mesopotamian Ziggurats, the Mayan Caracol at Chichen Itza, and the Great Pyramid at Giza--was most probably a good place, as the Chinese put it, from which "to observe the flight of birds," that is, to observe and record the rising, transit, and setting of the sun and the moon, the planets and the stars, or other celestial phenomena.
Although Martin Bernal makes nothing of the connection, the timetable of Mntw's rise to glory and nationwide popularity in Egypt would have accorded precisely with the slowly changing position (vis-à-vis the vernal equinox) of the constellation Taurus, which
everywhere was one of the earliest and most noted constellations, perhaps the first established, because it marked the vernal equinox from about 4000 to 1700 BC, in the golden age of archaic astronomy; in all ancient zodiacs preserved to us it began the year.
[Allen, Star Names, p. 378.]
By the turn of the 20th century BCE, the brightest stars in the constellation, including its alpha lucida Aldeberan, had already sunk below the horizon, their light obliterated by the brilliance of the rising sun as it precessed through the Zodiac: every year on that date moving some 50 seconds of arc closer to the preceding zodiacal sign. One particular group of stars associated with this constellation would have added to the dramatic sequence of these slowly precessing celestial relationships. The bunched asterism known as the Pleiades, among the most beautiful and best known sights in the night sky, at that time would have been occupying this crucial observational point of reference. This fact may provide us with a valuable clue for correlating the mythological accounts with actual historical events, while helping to corroborate the theories of Bernal and others who have drawn attention to previously slighted African and Levantine sources of European traditions. In this regard, Hertha von Dechend and Giorgio de Santillana, while discussing the archaic origins for the magical equipment of Siberian shamans, provide some relevant comments on method and the sociology of knowledge.
To have taken the conception of several skies and underworlds as natural, ergo primitive, was a grievous blunder which distorted the historical outlook of the last two centuries. It stems from the fact that philologists and Orientalists have lost all contact with astronomical imagination, or even the fundamentals of astronomy. When they find something which savors undeniably of astronomical lore, they find a way to label it under "prelogical thought" or the like. But even apart from the celestial ladder and the sky travel of the shaman's soul, a close look at shamanistic items always discloses very ancient patterns. For instance, the drum, the most powerful device of the shaman, representing the Universe in a specific way, is the unmistakable grandchild of the bronze lilissu drum of the Mesopotamian Kalu-priest (responsible for music and serving the god Enki/Ea). The cover of the ililssu drum must come from a black bull. "which represents Taurus in heaven," says Thureau-Dangin. Going further, W. F. Albright and P. E. Dumont compared the sacrifice of the Mesopotamian bull, the hide of which was to cover the ililssu drum, with the Indian Ashvamedha, a huge horse sacrifice which only the most successful king (always a Kshatrya) could afford. They found that the Indian horse must have the Krittika, the Pleiades, on his forehead, and this too, according to Albright, is what the Akkadian text prescribes concerning the bull.
[De Santillana and von Dechend, Hamlet's Mill, p. 124-125.]
The bull was white in Egypt, but black in Mesopotamia, where it has been explicitly identified in cuneiform texts as the god Anu. The ritual ililssu drum, on the authority of C. Bezold, was covered with the "sugugalu, `the hide of the great bull,' an emblem of Anu." Here is a remarkable precedent for the ancient stipulation that the Minotaur could only be slain while being held by the forelock. Add to this the fascinating detail, according to the Greek version, that the ONLY and NECESSARY variation in marking and coloring for the sacred bull combined these two in the black blaze on the forelock of an otherwise all-white animal. Von Dechend and de Santillana continue:
The striking of the drum covered with that specific bull hide was meant as a contact with heaven at its most significant point, and in the Age of Taurus (c. 4000-2000 BC) this was also explicitly said to represent Anu, now casually identified as "God of Heaven." But Anu was a far more exact entity. In cuneiform script, Anu is written with one wedge, which stands for the number 1 and also for 60 in the sexigismal system (the Pythagor eans would have said, he stands for the One and the Decad). All this does not mean some symbolic or mystical, least of all magical quality or quantity, but the fundamental time measure of celestial events (that is, motions). Striking the drum was to involve (this time, yes, magically) the essential Time and Place in heaven.
[De Santillana and von Dechend, Hamlet's Mill, p. 125. They cite C. Bezold, Babylonisch-Assyrisches Glossar, Heidelberg (1926), p. 210.]
The thirty-degree slice of pie-in-the-sky allotted to Aries the Ram began to figure prominently in the slowly precessing imaginary celestial hemisphere around 2000 BC, or more precisely 1730 BC. The asterism--the observable stars making up the constellation--are very tightly grouped in the case of Aries, however, and they did not appear exactly in line with the helical rising of the equinoctal sun until quite a while after the beginning of the "Age." When the stars of Aries did finally occupy the position formerly held by those of Taurus at the vernal equinox, Min was sharing attributes with Amon at Thebes,
and by the New Kingdom [conventionally thought to have begun in 1567 BC] Amon and Re [Ra] seem in many cults to have been fused with Min as a single massively endowed ithyphallic figure.
[Bernal, Black Athena, II, p. 170.]
To be sure, as drawn on today's standard celestial globes or star maps, Aries overlaps significant stars in the constellation Pisces. The precessional "Age of Pisces" is reckoned to have begun about the time Augustus established the Roman Empire, or at the time of the birth of Jesus Christ, so profoundly associated with the clerical conventions that established the prevailing Western calendar. Then again, the imaginary depiction of Taurus as a bull in the sky has followed several contradictory conventions. Between the stars sometimes representing the extended horns of the bull--but in any event just prior to precessing into the 30-degree "house" of Aries with its relatively insignificant stars--what DID appear was, naturally, the Pleiades:
the Breeches Bible having this marginal note at its word "Pleiades" in the Book of Job, xxxviii, 31:
which starres arise when the sunne is in Taurus which is the springtime and bring flowers.
[Allen, Star Names, p. 396. The Bible and Holy Scriptures, also known as The Geneva Bible, published by Rouland Hall at Geneva (1560), was made by English Protestants who had taken refuge in Geneva during the reign of Mary. It newly featured roman rather than black letter type, "and for the first time in an English Bible the verses were divided and numbered---invaluable for reference, but with disastrous effects on the flow of the narrative....The name `Breeches Bible,' often applied to this version, derives from the reading of Genesis iii, 7 as `and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves breeches' instead of the aprons of other versions." Carter and Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man, p. 50 f.]
Actually quite near our Sun, the Pleiades are part of an open star cluster with about forty members, of which either six or seven are visible to the naked eye. This disparity led to traditions identifying them variously as the Seven Sisters or, as the early Copts knew them, the Hexastron, "Six-starred Asterism." Following the Greeks Hipparchos and Eratosthenes, the Latin poet Ovid wrote,
- Quae septem dici, sex tamen esse solent:
- Six only are visible, but the seventh is beneath the dark clouds.
Cicero thought of them in the same way; and Galileo wrote Dico autem sex, quando quidem septima fere nunquam apparet.
[Allen, Star Names, p. 411.]
The Pleiades are of such unusual importance in all astronomical traditions that, although appearing in the zodiacal section of the sky allotted to Taurus, they receive consideration as virtually a separate constellation. The most salient feature of the group of stars, is the their very plurality. This is the meaning of both the biblical Kimah, and the name of the constellation in Arabic, Al Thurayya. The several words derived from the root TH-R-A all relate to ideas of abundance, multiplicity, increasing riches, wealth and opulence. In the form thurayya the meaning is also "luster" and "candlestick." In Greek, their name was though by some to derive from plein "to sail," when the helical rising of the constellation in Spring and its setting in Autumn would have marked the sailing season in the Aegean or Eastern Mediterranean, although this was probably a fortuitous afterthought.
Some of the poets, among them Athenaeus, Hesiod, Pindar and Simonides, likening the stars to Rock-pigeons flying from the Hunter Orion, wrote the word Pleieades, which, although done partly for metrical reasons, again shows the intimate connection in early legend with a flock of birds...turned into stars.... Other versions made them the Seven Doves that carried ambrosia to the infant Zeus, one of the flock being crushed when passing between the Symplagades....This story probably originated in that of the dove which helped Argo through; Homer telling us in the Odyssey that
- No bird of air, no dove of swiftest wing,
- That bears ambrosia to the ethereal king,
- Shuns the dire rocks; in vain she cuts the skies,
- The dire rocks meet and crush her as she flies;
and the doves on Nestor's cup described in the Iliad have been supposed to refer to the Pleiades.
[Allen, Star Names, p. 395.]
In the 12th Dynasty, because of the precession of the equinoxes, it became necessary to revise the cosmological basis of the Egyptian geodesic system. The original computation had formed the basis for all standard units of measure, from establishing the length of the cubit to determining the volume of an artaba, the standard measure of grain throughout the Near East down to the Persian Empire, and from which even the European medieval ounce derived. The new capital of Egypt was established on the banks of the Nile at Memphis, but the exact geodetic point--the "Sokar"--was located slightly west, its name
preserved by the present village of Saqqara (29 degrees, 51 minutes north; 31 degrees, 14 minutes east). In the religion of the Old Kingdom, Sokar is an important god of orientation and of cemeteries. The god and the stone object were represented by the stone object which the Greeks called omphalos, "navel"; it is a hemisphere (the northern hemisphere) resting on a cylinder (the foundations of the cosmos). Usually on top of Sokar, as on top of any omphalos, there are portrayed two birds facing each other; in ancient iconography these two birds, usually doves, are a standard symbol for stretching meridians and parallels.
[Stecchini, "Notes on the Relation of Ancient Measures," Appendix, in Tompkins, Secrets of the Great Pyramid, p. 297 f.]
The change involved moving the capital and the geodetic center of Egypt to Thebes in the nome dedicated to Amon the Ram, corresponding to the constellation Aries. This served both to update the calendar and to provide a more central geographical position for the capital,
where the eastern axis of Egypt (32 degrees, 38 minutes east) cuts the course of the Nile. The latitude was 2/7 of the distance from the equator to the pole (25 degrees, 42 minutes, 51 seconds north). This latitude was marked by the central room of the temple of Amon, in which the god and the geodetic point most probably was indicated by the same object, the omphalos, "navel," which used to represent the god Sokar....Egyptologists have tried to torture Egyptian linguistics in order to explain why the Greeks should have given the name Thebes to a city which the Egyptians called Wast. The likely explanation is that the Greeks learned the name of the city from the Phoenicians, who in their own language called it thibbn, "navel"....[T]he latitude of Thebes has a further peculiarity: at this latitude the degree of longitude is 9/10 of degree of equator.
In Greece there were two centers which competed for the role of national oracle, Dodona and Delphi. The oracle of Dodona was considered more ancient and many Greeks considered it more authoritative, but it was at a practical disadvantage because it was located beyond the limits of solidly Greek territory in an area most difficult of access....The Greeks narrated that two doves flew from the temple of Amon in Egypt in order to establish the oracles of Dodona and Delphi. In ancient literature and iconography the flight of two doves is the standard symbol for the stretching of meridians and parallels. (A marble relief shows the omphalos of Delphi depicted with two pigeons facing each other. Evidently carrier pigeons were used for establishing geographic distances. According to Greek legends, a central geodetic point was obtained by loosing two birds of equal strength and using the mean of the time employed in flight. This would allow for differences in wind current and other variables. By repeated flights even more accurate measurements could be obtained.)
Because the oracle of Delphi was less isolated, it received more attention and consequently we are better informed about it. Delphi was considered the geodetic center of Greece. The god of Delphi, Apollo, whose name means "the stone," was identified with an object, the omphalos, "navel," which has been found. It consisted of an ovoidal stone (the ovoidal shape indicated the lengthening of the degree of latitude as one moves north) covered by a net. The net was the symbol of what even today we call the net of meridians and parallels. The omphalos of Delphi was similar to the object which represented the god Amon in Thebes, the "navel" of Egypt....[H]istorical accounts, myths, and legends and some monuments of Delphi, indicate that the oracle was established there by the Pharaohs of the Ethiopian Dynasty. This is the reason why the Greeks portrayed Delphos, the eponymos hero of Delphi, as a Negro.
[Stecchini, "Notes," in Tompkins, Secrets, pp. 302, 349.]
For both Delphi and dolphin, the usual etymology given is delphys meaning "womb." Delphos was the son of Apollo--or of Poseidon--and a dolphin-like daughter of Deukalion named Melantho or Melaina, whose name is cognate with the Greek word melan meaning black. Bernal mentions his portrait on several 5th century BCE coins from both Delphi and Athens; he suggests other parallels with the name of the Telphousian spring, where Apollo considered establishing his temple before Delphi, according to the Homeric Hymn to the Pythian Apollo, and with the island of Delos, regarded as the birthplace of Apollo, and said to have been visited by Theseus after the events on Crete.
The relevance of the latitude in the location of Delphi is indicated by a number of Greek accounts which associate Delphi with Sardis, the capital of the kingdom of Lydia in Asia Minor, which is on the same parallel (38 degrees, 28 minutes north)....
The latitudes of Dodona and Delphi [and of Sardis] are significant. The length of the degree of latitude at the parallels of these two oracular centers gave the length of the minute or second of sidereal time, that is, the distance covered by a point at the equator in a sidereal minute or second of rotation of the earth [as measured with respect to a star]....
Latitude 38 degrees, 28 minutes north may also have been chosen [for Delphi, and for Sardis] because it is at the standard distance of 6 minutes [based on rationalizing cartography and the use of 6-minute zones for measuring geographical distances] from latitude 38 degrees 34 minutes north, which is at 3/7 the distance from the equator to the pole, whereas the Temple of Amon in Thebes was set at 2/7 of this distance.
[Stecchini, "Notes" in Tompkins, Secrets, pp. 302 f., 348 ff. See also, Bernal, Black Athena, II, pp. 92 f., 109.]