Minoan civilization has its roots in the 4th millennium BC. Its golden age lasted roughly from 2,600-1600BC, followed by a period of a steady decline until 1,100BC. Their Linear A script was the base for the Linear B – the earliest written form of Greek. However, Linear A texts were not in the Greek language. The script is still not deciphered, but the consensus is that the language was Indo-European.
A recent study proved that some Minoans were genetically related to Greeks, while the others came from the Middle East. However, nobody is really sure who they really were.
Minoans, the bull worshipers
One of the most iconic images of the Minoan culture is the bull-leaping fresco from Knossos palace in Crete. It was a common motif in Minoan art. The common agreement is that these scenes represent actual bull-leaping, but scholars are still debating on the meaning of this ritual.
However, the bull-leaping games were not a Minoan invention. The earliest evidence comes from the Indus Valley Civilization. After that, we see it in ancient Syria, and with the Hittites in Modern Turkey.
The meaning of the bull-leaping – spring in Taurus
The overuse of a bull image may lead us to a period between 5th-3rd millennium BC when spring equinox was in Taurus. Ancient cultures believed that the transition of the Sun through zodiac signs was not an easy one. Numerous rituals were designed with the sole purpose to facilitate this passing.
In spring, the Sun “jumps” higher on the horizon, and then “falls” six months later in the fall. This is probably the meaning behind the English terms “spring” and “fall”. I believe that the bull-leaping event relates to the same idea. It was a spring festival.
Here is how the celestial cross of the period influenced iconography of other cultures, neighboring Minoans.
Minotaur and the labyrinth
According to the legend, King Minos was supposed to sacrifice a beautiful white bull, a gift from Poseidon. But he decided to keep it and sacrifice another bull instead. As a punishment, Poseidon made his wife fall in love with the bull, and the fruit of their love was a monstrous creature, the Minotaur. Minotaur means “the bull of Minos”, or more likely “the Minoan bull”. Once again, we have an example of the star lore of the spring equinox in Taurus.
The labyrinth, to which Minotaur is closely associated, is etymologically related to the labrys axe. Perhaps because the most ancient representations of the labyrinth had a similar shape. There were many attempts to find a Minoan labyrinth on Crete, but all were fruitless.
I believe that the labyrinth did not exist. Instead, the myth comes from the newcomers who saw the Neolithic drystone constructions, so typical for Meditteranean of the time. Here is an example from the famous Baljenac island, Croatia.
Labrys, Minoan double-axe – autumn in Aquila
Another important religious symbol of the Minoans was Labrys. But this symbol predates Minoans. We see it on the Neolithic drawings from Çatalhöyük, Turkey, as well as the Linear pottery culture of Romania (5,500-4,500 BC)
Labrys was also a common symbol in the Middle East. It was an axe of a storm god and as such, closely related to thunderbolts. Some of the deities that have it are Hurrian Teshub, Luwian Tarhun, and Carian Zeus Labraundos. These are probably just different names of the same deity. But it seems that nobody knows what was the real symbolism of this axe, so I will be free to give my opinion.
In Minoan iconography, we often see Labrys in the sky, perhaps hinting that we are dealing with a constellation. In Indo-European star-lore, thunder gods rule the rainy seasons of spring and autumn. And as we saw, the spring equinox was in Taurus, the bull. Therefore, I looked right across, in the autumn equinox – which was in Aquila, the eagle. To my amazement, this constellation looks exactly like Labrys!
Besides, Minoans gave us another clear hint that we are dealing with the equinox. There are symbols of Sun and the Moon above the Labrys. At other times, this duality is represented by two heads of the eagle.
And just as a curiosity, I added the Mayan thunderbird with the same set of symbols. Obviously another autumn equinox in Aquila. But who brought this iconography to Mesoamerica?
The Vedic language of the Minoans
As I already stated at the beginning of this article, the language of the Minoans is yet to be deciphered. However, while doing my research, I found an interesting article titled: “Minoan names” – by Astrid van den Kerkhof and Peter Rem.
For now, the article is available online, and for the sake of brevity, I will bring out just some interesting points. The introduction quotes numerous scholars who proposed links between the Vedic / Harrapan civilizations, with the Minoans of Crete. They came to this conclusion by comparing the architecture, seals and other archaeological evidence. In short – from Crete to the Indian subcontinent, there are certain similarities. They follow the migration route of Eastern Aryans.
But even more interesting than the archaeological evidence is the linguistic one. They believe that the etymology of the Minoan King Minos comes from the Vedic “mino” or “minu” – to judge. King Minos was really a judge. According to Plato (Laws I 624), every nine years he visited the cave on Mount Ida to receive the new code of law. And the book of Oddisey sees him as the judge of the underworld.
Indeed, in this period the local chieftains were known as “judges”. In the Old Testament, we even have “The book of judges”. (see Shophet). But if “King” Minos was a “judge” in the same context, it means that his “kingdom” was only a part of a larger nation.
This is not the only Minoan/Vedic name. The Minoan name Radamanthus may be a compound of “rādhā” – prosperity and “mantus” – king’s adviser. Knossos may come from Vedic “knoso” – the light of dawn. (knas-shine + uso, usas-dawn). And Phaistos would mean “bright glow”
In conclusion, there are a few scholars who seem to agree that Minoans might not have only been influenced by the Vedic civilization – they believe that Minoans were an Aryan tribe!
So who were the Minoans?
From everything presented so far, it is clear that Minoan mythology is older than the official dating of the Minoan civilization. The astronomical age of Taurus ended around 2,500BC, several centuries after the Minoan civilization appears. Since there are no proves of an earlier bull-worship cult, we must assume that the influence came from the outside. The bull worship was common all across the Neolithic world.
However, Minoans continued to see bull as a sacred symbol for many more centuries. The reason for this is that the following spring constellation, the Aries, is not so clearly distinguishable on the night sky. Also, old habits die hard, especially when they are two millennia old. Moses faced the same problem when he was convincing his people to stop worship Baal.
But there is one final piece of the puzzle, that may help us shed some light on who the original Minoans were.
Herodotus begins the history of Scythians with a strange event. Four golden objects fell from the sky: a plough, a yoke, a drinking cup, and a battle axe. There are two reasons why I find this quote interesting.
First, I see it as an astronomical allegory. Namely, a “plow” is the constellation Ursa Minor, around which the night sky revolves. A yoke is the constellation Auriga – the chariot, and a drinking cup – constellation Crater. I am not sure if Herodotus was aware of this when writing down the stories he heard from his Scythian sources. Or perhaps he was and saw it as a clear allegory that does not need further explanation.
But most importantly, the battle-ax has no match on the night sky. Unless we see it as Aquila. Aquila was the eagle for many nations. Its two heads conveyed the symbolism of the autumn equinox. But only a few nations might have seen it as a double-ax. And judging by Herodotus, one of them were Scythians. An Aryan tribe with an Indo-European language.
Indeed, these four constellations depict perfectly the four Vedic castes: 1. Plough – Shudras, laborers 2. Yoke – Vaishyas, agriculture and merchants 3. Axe – Kshatriyas, warriors and rulers and 4. Cup – Brahmins, priests and scholars.