At Booksquawk, January 7th, 2012
Divine destiny is a deep-seated theme throughout. Constant regional earthquakes are interpreted by the ruling priestesses as omens, and most everything is imbued with celestial meaning. The reader is immersed in a vivid culture of devoted spirituality. Athene must be appeased with violent sacrifice and every year that sacrifice is the queen’s
latest consort – a man who bested all other competitors for the honor of living large for a year and then allowing his blood to consecrate Crete’s soil.
At Historical Novel Review, January 7th, 2012
Set amongst the mystery of the Minoan Labyrinth and the heart-pounding thrill of the bull-dancing ring, The Year-God’s Daughter is the first volume of The Child of the Erinyes, a sweeping epic of a series spanning time from the Bronze Age to the near future. see more
Reviews At Amazon, 2011 and 2012: read them all
In my series, the title given to the bull-god, the sacred king. He was, as far as I can tell, the precursor to Zeus, although later myths say he was the son of Zeus.
Carl Kerényi has a whole chapter on Zagreus in Dionysos, Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life, which of course I won’t repeat in its entirety here. The highlights:
page 113: “The Cretans of the Greek period spoke of a Zeus of their own, stressing the Cretan mythologem of his birth by the use of the epithet “Kretogenes,” “he who was born in Crete.” By this they meant the god born in a Cretan setting that included the cave. If we drop the Greek names “Zeus” and “Dionysos,” there remains the great anonymous snake god who, according to the late testimony of Himerios, held his marriage “in Cretan caves.”
“Less archaic than the seduction by a snake was the universally known myth of the rape of Persephone. “Hades,” “Plouton,” or the “subterranean Zeus” were only cover names for the ravisher. Fundamentally he too was a great anonymous god. To the version in which the scene of the rape was Sicily, Nonnos in his Dionysiaka appended an account of the snake marriage. Demeter leaves Crete with her virgin daughter Persephone and hides her in a cave near the spring of Kyane. Thither comes Zeus, the bridegroom in the form of a snake:
…through marriage with this heavenly dragon
Persephone’s womb became fruitful, prepared
To give birth to Zagreus, the horned infant.
Aischylos bears witness to the contradictory identity of Zagreus, on the one hand with a “subterranean Zeus,” on the other with his subterranean son. “Zagreus,” “he who captures alive,” was also a cover name, a circumlocution for a great god, in fact the greatest god of all time. He visits his hidden daughter in a cave, and she bears him to himself as his own son. The “mystic” feature which we have presupposed in the relationship between Dionysos and Ariadne here appears in an archaic myth in which generation and birth never go beyond the same couple. Taking his mother or daughter to wife, the son or husband begets a mystic child who in turn will court only his mother. To such involvements the snake figure is more appropriate than any other. It is the most naked form of zoë absolutely reduced to itself”
Later in the book, Carl observes: “It is certain that if Pentheus, a transparent and unequivocal name with the somber meaning “man of suffering,” could become a man’s name at Knossos it was only because the names of gods–“Zagreus” as well as “Pentheus”–were also given to persons and because int he fesstive calendar the god’s somber aspect prepared the way for the opposite aspect.”
Robert Graves says on page 110 in The Greek Myths:
“Because the vine cult reached Greece and the Aegean by way of Crete–oinos, ‘wine’, is a Cretan word–Dionysus has been confused with Cretan Zagreus, who was similarly torn to pieces at birth.”
page 73, 74: “When in Egypt the early rising of Sirius became the beginning of the year, the approach of a better season could be foreseen by the first swelling of the Nile. Yet this was also the time of the most dangerous heat: a highly ambivalent season! The same was true in Crete and Greece (with the exception that there was no Nile). The heat was obviously evil, and so was the star with whose appearance it began. But in a mysterious way the season was also good. In Greek it was called opora, a word that is not easy to translate because it means not only the season but its fruits as well. Homer knew Sirius as “Orion’s dog.” As Alpha canis it belongs to the great hunter whose gigantic figure had already dominated the heavens for months and would continue to do so for several months more until, stung by the celestial scorpion, it sank below the horizon. The full ambivalence of Sirius is expressed by a metaphor in the twenty-second book of the Iliad. As Achilles ran, “the bronze on his breast flashed out like the star that comes to us in autumn, outshining all its fellows in the evening sky–they call it Orion’s Dog, and though it is the brightest of all stars it bodes no good, bringing much fever, as it does, to us poor wretches.”
page 77: “At Knossos we find the name i-wa-ko, whose Greek reading can be “Iakos,” “Iachos,” or “Iakchos”; at Knossos and Pylos it often takes the form of i-wa-ka. “Iakar,” a name for Sirius that seems utterly alien to the Greek language, may not really have been so foreign. An Egyptian story can be cited in connection with the Minoan names “Iakar” and “Iakchos.” “Iachen” or “Iachim” was the name of a wise and pious man in Egypt who allegedly lived under King Senyes. This man may also have been a divine figure. He was said to have softened the fiery power of Sirius at its early rising and thus to have wiped out the epidemics that raged at that time. After his death he was buried in a temple tomb, and when the appropriate sacrificial rites had been completed the priests took fire from his altar and carried it about, apparently in a magic ritual directed against the destructive fire of the star.
Through Dionysos this fire was transformed into the “pure light of high summer.”
From The Myth of the Goddess (Evolution of an Image), by Anne Baring and Jules Cashford:
page 119: “The Cretan New Year began at the summer solstice, when the heat was at its greatest, and 20 July was the day when the great star Sirius rose in conjunction with the sun, as it did also in Sumeria and Egypt. In these two other countries Sirius was explicitly the star of the goddess (Inanna in Sumeria, and Isis in Egypt), and Minoan temple-palaces in Crete were orientated to this star. The rising of Sirius ended a forty-day ritual during which honey was gathered from the hives of the bees in the darkness of the caves and the woods. The honey was then fermented into mead and drunk as an intoxicating liquor, accompanying the ecstatic rites that may have celebrated the return of the daughter of the goddess as the beginning of the new year–as, perhaps, in the seal of the double axe. All these rites are present in the Classical Greek myths of Dionysos, himself originating in Crete and called the Bull God. A bull was sacrificed with the rising of the star Sirius, and the bees were seen as the resurrected form of the dead bull and also as the souls of the dead.”
From The Greek Myths, by Robert Graves:
14: Once the relevance of coition to child-bearing had been officially admitted, man’s religious status gradually improved, and winds or rivers were no longer given credit for impregnating women. The tribal Nymph, it seems, chose an annual lover from her entourage of young men, a king to be sacrificed when the year ended; making him a symbol of fertility, rather than the object of her erotic pleasure. His sprinkled blood served to fructify trees, crops and flocks, and his flesh was torn and eaten raw by the Queen’s fellow-nymphs – priestesses wearing the masks of bitches, mares, or sows. Next, in amendment to this practice, the king died as soon as the power of the sun, with which he was identified, began to decline in the summer; and another young man, his twin, or supposed twin – a convenient ancient Irish term is ‘tanist’ – then became the Queen’s lover, to be duly sacrificed at midwinter and, as a reward, reincarnated in an oracular serpent.
15: The number seven acquired peculiar sanctity, because the king died at the seventh full moon after the shortest day.
18: When the shortness of the king’s reign proved irksome, it was agreed to prolong the thirteen month year to a Great Year of one hundred lunations, in the last of which occurs a near-coincidence of solar and lunar time. But since the fields and crops still needed to be fructified, the king agreed to suffer an annual mock death and yield his sovereignty for one day – the intercalated one, lying outside the sacred sidereal year – to the surrogate boy-king, or interrex, who died at its close, and whose blood was used for the sprinkling ceremony. Now the sacred king either reigned for the entire period of a Great Year, with a tanist as his lieutenant; or the two reigned for alternate years; or the Queen let them divide the queendom into halves and reign concurrently. The king deputized for the Queen at many sacred functions, dressed in her robes, wore false breasts, borrowed her lunar axe as a symbol of power, and even took over from her the magical art of rain making. His ritual death varied greatly in circumstance; he might be torn to pieces by wild women, transfixed with a sting-ray spear, felled with an axe, pricked in the heel with a poisoned arrow, flung over a cliff, burned to death on a pyre, drowned in a pool, or killed in a pre-arranged chariot crash. But die he must. A new stage was reached when animals came to be substituted for boys at the sacrificial altar, and the king refused death after his lengthened reign ended. Dividing the realm into three parts, and awarding one part to each of his successors, he would reign for another term; his excuse being that a closer approximation of solar and lunar time had now been found, namely nineteen years, or 325 lunations. The Great Year had become a Greater Year.
23: The queen-mother of the state, as Ngame’s representative, performs an annual sacred marriage with Odomankoma’s representative: namely her chosen lover whom, at the close of the year, the priests murder, skin, and flay. The same practice seems to have obtained among the Greeks.
38: 6.3: during the king’s sacrifice, designed to fructify the cornfields and orchards, the goddess’s priestesses wore menacing Gorgon masks to frighten away profane visitors. His genitals were thrown into the sea to encourage fish to breed.
52: A hero, as the word indicates, was a sacred king who had been sacrificed to Hera, whose body was safely under the earth, and whose soul had gone to enjoy her paradise at the back of the North Wind. His golden apples were passports to this paradise.
57: Dionysus began as a sacred king whom the goddess ritually killed with a thunderbolt in the 7th month from the winter solstice, and whom her priestesses devoured.
93: the title Hecate (one hundred) apparently refers to the hundred lunar months of the king’s reign, and to the hundredfold harvest. The king’s death by a thunderbolt, or by the teeth of horses, or at the hands of his tanist, was his common fate in primitive Greece.
108: Dryas (oak) was the oak-king, annually killed. The trimming of his extremities served to keep his ghost at bay, and the wanton felling of a sacred oak carried the death penalty.
114: As sacred king, he was struck by a thunderbolt – that is, killed with a double-axe – in an oak grove at the summer solstice, and then dismembered by the Maenads of the bull-cult, like Zagreus; or of the stag-cult, like Actaeon.
115: A sacred king necessarily suffered dismemberment.
126: In pre-Hellenic myth, the goddess chases the sacred king and, although he goes through his seasonal transformations, counters each of them in turn with her own, and devours him at the summer solstice.
138: the twins’ mutual murder recalls the eternal rivalry for the love of the White Goddess between the sacred king and his tanist, who alternately meet death at each other’s hands.
138: the twins’ mutual murder recalls the eternal rivalry for the love of the White Goddess between the sacred king and his tanist, who alternately meet death at each other’s hands. The column, on which the Death-in-Life Goddess perches, marks the height of summer when the sacred king’s reign ends and the tanist’s begins. (At the heliacal rising of two-headed Sirius.)
176: The oak-king met his death in Athene’s honor, and all oak-kings fell beneath the double axe. Their bodies were usually roasted in a bonfire.
204: it was a widespread custom to bury the sacred king’s head at the approaches to a city, and thus protect it against invasion.
205: The Thesmophoria were agricultural orgies celebrated at Athens, in the course of which the severed genitals of the sacred king or his surrogate were carried in a basket; these were replaced in more civilized times by phallus-shaped loaves and live serpents.
209: As an oak-king with mistletoe genitals, representing the thunder-god, he ritually married the rain-making Moon-goddess; and was then scourged, so that his blood and sperm would fructify the earth, beheaded with an axe, emasculated, spread-eagled to a tree, and roasted; after which his kinsmen ate him sacramentally.
211: myth showing how an Aeolian chief invaded Elis, and accepted the consequences of marrying the Pelasgian Moon-goddess Hera’s representative. When his reign ended he was duly sacrificed and awarded a hero shrine at Olympia.
255: Wild Women maddened with hippomanes, either a herb, or the slimy vaginal tissue of a mare in heat, or the black membrane cut from the forehead of a new-born foal closed in on a sacred king by the seashore at the end of his reign. Their skirts were hoisted as in the erotic worship of Egyptian Apis so that when they dismembered him, his spurting blood would quicken their wombs.
267: The sacred king’s death at the onset of a boar – whose curved tusks dedicated it to the moon – is ancient myth. There was a widespread custom of sacrificing a royal prince at the foundation of a city.
268: an icon showing the doomed king, with golden apples in hand, being chased to death by the goddess. A companion icon will have shown Artemis supported by two lions, as on the gate at Mycenae, and on several Mycenaean and Cretan seals.
275: vase picturing the Moon-goddess presenting the apple of immortality to the sacred king. Also another showing a new king about to ride through the streets of his capital after having ritually hacked his predecessor in pieces with an axe. The frequent murders, accidental or intentional, which caused princes to leave home and be purified by foreign kings, whose daughters they then married, are an invention of later mythographers. There is no reason to suppose that Peleus left Aegina, or Ththia, under a cloud; at a time when kingship went by matrilineal succession, candidates for the throne always came from abroad, and the new king was reborn into the royal house after ritually murdering his predecessor. He then changed his name and tribe, which was expected to throw the vengeful ghost of the murdered man off his scent. The old murdered king often became an oracular hero. It was found convenient, in more civilized times, when much the same ritual was used to purify ordinary criminals, to forget that kingship implied murder, and to suggest that Peleus, Telamon, and the rest had been involved in crimes or scandals unconnected with their accession to the throne.
Erich Neumann, in The Origins and History of Consciousness says this:
“The womb of the earth clamors for fertilization, and blood sacrifices and corpses are the food she likes best. This is the terrible aspect, the deadly side of the earth’s character. . . . Everywhere blood plays a leading part in fertility ritual and human sacrifice. The great terrestrial law that there can be no life without death was early understood, and still earlier represented in ritual, to mean that a strengthening of life can only be bought at the cost of sacrificial death” (54)
At the outset of The Year-god’s Daughter, our Aridela is only ten years old. Yet, fired by divine insight, she enters the bullring, determined to win glory for herself. Because of this act, her life becomes inexorably linked to the lives of two men from Mycenae.
There are two, perhaps three meanings to her name: Utterly Clear, and One Visible from Afar. Robert Graves translates it as The Very Manifest One.
Four words I might use to describe her: “uncomfortable in her skin.”
I will add more about Aridela as books in the series become available.
From Dionysos (Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life), by Carl Kerényi:
“…we may assume that in one aspect of her being Ariadne was a dark goddess. Among the Greeks the epithet “utterly pure” was attached preeminently to Persephone, the queen of the underworld, although other goddesses also were termed hagne. What seems significant here is the intensive contained in the first part of the name. A similarly accented attribute completed Ariadne’s character and provided another aspect. The Cretans also called her “Aridela,” “the utterly clear.” just as they also called Koronis “Aigle.” She could appear “utterly clear” in the heavens. The lunar character of Ariadne can no more be doubted than that of the crow-virgin, mother of Asklepios, who was able to shine like light.”
“Ariadne is described as a girl “with beautiful braids of hair,” an ornamental epithet that Homer confers more often on goddesses than on common girls. According to the Odyssey, (XI 321-22), Ariadne was a daughter of the “evil-plotting Minos,”–an epithet that presupposes the labyrinth as a place of death. Ariadne, the king’s daughter, was mortal, since she was killed by Artemis. She committed the sin of following Theseus, the foreign prince. Homer knew the story of how the hero and his band of seven youths and seven maidens were rescued by means of the famous thread, which is held in the hand in executing the difficult dance figure. The thread was a gift of Ariadne, and it was she who saved Theseus from the labyrinth. Even in this story, which has become so human, Ariadne discloses a close relationship, such as only the Minoan “mistress of the labyrinth” could have had, to both aspects of the labyrinth: the home of the Minotaur and the scene of the winding and unwinding dance. In the legend the Great Goddess has become a king’s daughter, but there can be no doubt as to her identity. In the Greek period of the island she bore a name–although, as we shall soon see, she also had others–that is not a name at all but only an epithet and an indication of her nature. “Ariadne” is a Cretan-Greek form for “Arihagne,” the “utterly pure,” from the adjective adnon for hagnon.”
Carl Kerenyi also says: “Ariadne-Aridela, who had a cult period corresponding to each of her two names, was no doubt the Great Moon Goddess of the Aegean world, but her association with Dionysos shows how much more she was than the moon. The dimensions of the celestial phenomena cannot encompass such a goddess. Just as Dionysos is the archetypal reality of zoë, so Ariadne is the archetypal reality of the bestowal of soul, of what makes a living creature an individual.”
” In the union of two archetypal images, the divine pair Dionysos and Ariadne represent the eternal passage of zoë into and through the genesis of living creatures. This occurs over and over again and is always, uninterruptedly, present. Not only in the Greek religion, but also in the earlier Minoan religion and mythology, zoë takes the masculine form, while the genesis of souls takes the feminine form.”
From The Knossos Labyrinth, by Rodney Castleden:
“The princess Ariadne, at once Minos’s daughter and Theseus’s lover, is the mystic, mysterious, feminine heart of Minoan civilization. She is the dark and volatile beauty at the centre of the Labyrinth: princess, priestess, goddess, mistress. She flees from Knossos with Theseus, sailing away at night to meet an ambiguous fate. In some versions of the legend she is abandoned on another island in the Aegean. In some she marries the god Dionysos, in others she commits suicide. Whatever her later fate, she is that heart of Minoan civilization that was borrowed by the growing civilization of the Greek mainland and subsumed by it.”
And finally, Robert Graves says in The Greek Myths:
“‘Ariadne’, which the Greeks understood as ‘Ariagne” (‘very holy’), will have been a title of the Moon-goddess honoured in the dance, and in the bull ring: ‘the high, fruitful Barley-mother’, also called Aridela, ‘the very manifest one’.
Book Three: The exciting climax to the Bronze Age segment of the series.
There is a beast in the labyrinth… a monster. The people say he is both man and bull; they call him Asterion.
Of all Crete’s citizens, only two dare enter his lair. One bears his child. The other sees the Goddess in his eyes. Terrifying yet compelling, the beast offers Crete’s only hope for redemption.
Click HERE to read a sample at Amazon.
It has been difficult to get to this point, I admit. It’s an important book in the series, as it wraps up the Bronze Age segment, and kicks off the next group of books, set in Scotland.
In the Moon of Asterion was published digitally on April 10, 2013. It is available for Kindle, Nook, iTunes, and others. See the Links to Purchase tab.
The paperback is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the Book Depository.
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Ash, earthquakes and tsunamis devastate Crete.
The will of the survivors fades as the skies remain dark and frost blackens the crops. Aridela must find a way to revive the spirit of her people along with rebuilding her country’s defenses.
More threats loom on the horizon. Greek kingdoms see a weakened Crete as easy prey.
And now Chrysaleon, he who carries the ancient title of Thinara King, feels the shadow of Death over his shoulder. Will he thwart his fate? No other man ever has.
Click HERE to read a sample at Amazon.
I’d like to invite you to sign up for my email newsletter, which I use ONLY to announce new releases and to offer subscribers special offers. I will never spam, or clutter up your inbox with my thoughts of the week, nor will I ever share your email address. It’s easy: just enter your email address, approve it, and, to be safe, add it to your approved addresses so it doesn’t disappear into a junk folder. Here’s the link.
Photo Mt. Etna: «04Sep2007 Etna from SE Crater» de Jason Bott, Christopher Berger, Pete Garza – Trabajo propio. Disponible bajo la licencia Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 vía Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:04Sep2007_Etna_from_SE_Crater.jpg#mediaviewer/Archivo:04Sep2007_Etna_from_SE_Crater.jpg