Friday, 28 February 2020

The Old Woman of the Mill-Dust

Carmina Gadelica is a compendium of prayers, hymns, charms, incantations, blessings, folkloric poems and songs, proverbs, lexical items, historical anecdotes, natural history observations, and lore gathered in the Gaelic-speaking regions of Scotland between 1860 and 1909.


In this book, the author Alexander Carmichael recorded a tune, still popular today especially among pipers, called Cailleach an Dùdain (The Old Woman of the Mill-Dust).

You can hear the song here, and here is the note sheet.

Here are the lyrics. I couldn't translate one of the lines


In my post "Gryla" I talked about the Old Hag Winter from European folklore.


I mentioned that in Gaelic lands of Ireland and Scotland her name was Cailleach.

But Cailleach is also a name for a Corn dolly in Irish and Scottish folklore.


At the end of the article about Cailleach corn dollies, I talked about the folk play from Slovenia called "Babji mlin" (Grandmother's mill, or mill for milling grandmothers) in which "an old woman was transformed into a young girl through milling"


In the Slovenian folk play the old woman gets transformed into a young girl.
In the Gaelic folk song "Old woman of mill dust" the old woman is asked to give her daughter away.

How should we understand these two allegorical images?

Like this: In Slavic mythology, there is really only goddess: Mother Earth. But she has three faces. She is young virgin girl, Vesna (Spring), mature fertile woman, Mokosh (Summer, Autumn) and old barren old woman, the hag, Morana (Winter)...

The harvest happens in the summer and autumn and the harvested grains are milled over the winter and spring to make bread. Which is why milling is symbolically used the Slavic ritual play to describe passage of time which turns winter (Grandmother into spring (Maiden).

I believe that "Old woman of mill dust" was a Gaelic ritual song, sang during the reenactment of the transformation of the Old Hag Winter Earth into Young Maiden Spring Earth, probably during Imbolc (beginning of spring) festival...

That this is indeed the case, can be seen from the fact that elsewhere in Carmina Gadelica, Carmichael has a long note about the curious ‘resurrection’ dance which accompanied the playing of this jig:


In this curious dance, the woman playing the Old Hag Winter Earth (Old Lady of the mill dust, flour) dies and is then revived (gives her daughter away), is turned into Young Maiden Spring Earth, by the young man playing the Young Sun...

Remember in Slovenian "Milling of the grandmother" ritual play depictions, it is always young men who bring the Old Hag to the mill and take away the Young Maiden...

This is truly incredible. This is a remnant of the old European religious rituals which were once probably performed throughout Europe, but were to our days only preserved in Scotland and in Slovenia. Again Slavs and Gaels...We find this toooo often to be a coincidence...

I will finish this article with the great picture entitled: "Cailleach aig a bheil cailleach" (An old woman with a last sheaf of wheat) from Carmichael Watson Project page about the Cailleach an Dùdain. Cailleach means both an old woman, and the last sheaf of wheat and the corn dolly made from it. Corn dolly which represents Mother Earth, the life, birth giving mother of all...


Corn dolly

A 'Cailleach' is a special object woven in Ireland from the last standing sheaf in a field. It was made to mark/celebrate the gathering of the harvest. The word 'Cailleach' means 'hag' or witch.


In Northern Ireland this last sheaf of wheat was called "Calacht". It was ritually cut by the harvesters as seen on this photo entitled "Cutting the ‘Calacht’" by WA Green. Image sourced from the National Museum of Northern Ireland.



In "Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review", Volume 25 published in 1914, we can read a short description of this custom which once marked the end of the grain harvest in Ireland:


Harvest Meal from Co. Antrim. Notice the straw "Calacht" (Cailleach) over the table. Photo by WA Green. Image sourced from the National Museum of Northern Ireland.


The same tradition was once common in Scotland too. There the object made from the last sheaf was called "cailleach-bhuaineadh" (‘the old woman of the harvest’). Here is an example of the cailleach from Scotland.


The reason people gave for this custom can be found on the website "Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic"



Cailleach, The Hag represented Mother Earth in her winter form. At the end of the harvest (literally means autumn) her spirit (ability to produce food) was spent, and the last of it was preserved in this effigy for the next year. Pic: Winter, Roman mosaic


During the winter, as the grain from the autumn harvest was ground into flour, the Ugly Old Hag of Winter transformed into the Beautiful Young Maiden of Spring full of reproductive energy again. Pic: Slovenian folk painting depicting "Babji mlin" (Grandmother's mill)  

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Pluto

Pluto, Roman god of the underworld, from Latin Pluto, Pluton, from Greek Plouton "god of wealth," from ploutos "wealth, riches". This was also alternative Greek name of Hades in his function as the god of wealth (precious metals and gems, coming from beneath the earth)...


But there was another Plutus, also god of wealth. He was either the son of Demeter and Iasion, or the child of Pluto and Persephone. In the theology of the Eleusian Mysteries he is regarded as the "Divine Child" portrayed carrying the horn of plenty...

Considering that Demeter and Persephone are one and the same goddess, Mother Earth, in two of her yearly phases, does that mean that Iason and Pluto (Hades) are one and the same god in two of their yearly phases? Just an open question here. I will come back to this later...

The story how Plutus was conceived from the affair between Demeter and Iason is very interesting. "Demeter, bright goddess, was joined in sweet love with the hero Iasion in a thrice-ploughed (triple-furrowed) field in the rich land of Krete (Crete)"...

This "thrice-ploughed" (triple-furrowed) thingy is very interesting. Apparently, "the cutting of three furrows was part of fertility rites performed to inaugurate the new agricultural year"...Anyone knows where I can find reference to this in Greek texts???

Interestingly, in "Bulletin of the ethnographic museum of Serbia, Volume 10" from 1935 we can read that in some parts of Serbia, cutting of three furrows in the field was also a ritual making the beginning of the agricultural year...


Once the three furrows were cut, an egg was buried in and then the spring ploughing of the field continued...At the end of harvest, people slaughtered a cockerel in the field. Ploughing-sowing-harvesting...Egg-Cockerel...

Interestingly, Persephone, the winter Demeter, holds chicken and grain in her hands while sitting on the throne in the "underworld" next to Pluton god of wealth...Her return from the "underworld" announces the return of Spring which is celebrated with painted eggs...

Now rolling around the triple ploughed field didn't produce just Ploutos, the god of wealth. It also produced Philomelus, God of Husbandry, Tillage/Ploughing and Agriculture... Agriculture=Wealth...

Also rolling around triple furrowed field with Demeter = Death. Jealous Zeus, who was by the way Iason's father, killed Iason with a thunderbolt...

Hmmm...In Slavic mythology, Jarilo, young sun, the youngest son of the Thunder god Perun, seduces Vesna, young earth. They "roll around fields in spring". Their affair produces all the "wealth" of the summer...

But after spring comes summer. Jarilo has become Veles, the Dragon, Vesna has become Mokosh (wife of Perun). Ups 🙂.  And so, at the end of summer, jealous Perun kills Veles, (old Jarilo) with his thunderbolt. But Mokosh is already "pregnant" with all the wealth of autumn...

In Slavic languages, Jarilo, spring consort of Mother Earth, comes from the root "jar" which means: green, young, bright, hot, raging...Also in Slavic languages the word "jasan" means: clear, brigh, shiny...IASION was an agricultural hero and the springtime consort of Demeter...

Very interesting, right?

Well, Iasion's name has no meaning in Ancient Greek. The best etymology is: "...name may refer to bindweed, a small white flower that frequently grows in wheat fields..." Compare that with Jasan (Clear, Bright, Shining)...And you know how old gods get demoted by new gods...

And considering that Iasion is one of the people credited with the introduction of the Demeter (Da Mater, Giving Mother) worship in Greece, the Samothracian Mysteries...I wonder...

O! by the way, in Slavic languages, sija means "shines" and sije means "sows seeds"...

One last thing for this thread. You know how in some sources Gemini twins are said to be Triptolemus, the hero whom Demeter sent to teach the world how to grow grains, and Iasion, Demeter's lover with whom she "gave birth to wealth and agriculture"???

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Saffron

This is saffron. The most expensive spice in the world. I found this add for it today: Sale!!! 100 grams of saffron. Was €442.99 EUR now only €265.99 EUR!!!


The vivid crimson stigmas, are collected and dried for use mainly as a seasoning and colouring agent in food. The reason the spice is so expensive is that huge number of flowers are needed to produce a small quantity of spice... And they have to be picked and processed by hand...

This is what the crocus plants look when found in nature.



And this is what crocuses look when like when depicted on Minoan frescoes. This scene called "The Saffron Harvesters", was found in the Minoan settlement on island of Santorini to the north of Crete. You can clearly see the bunches of crocus flowers growing out of rocky ground...


As I said in my post about Minoan goat mythology, Cretan crocus, the ancestor of all the saffron crocuses, starts flowering in October-November and flowers throughout winter. 



At the beginning of rain season, when Ibex goats mate and olives are ripe for picking...Which is all depicted on this Minoan fresco... 



So the saffron picking scenes depicted on Minoan frescoes all take place during the winter starting in October-November. During the season dominated by The Goddess...Why do we only see women picking crocus flowers? Maybe this was one of those sacred, female only jobs, protected by taboos...

Well stigmas are female sexual organs of the crocus flower. No wonder picking saffron was female only activity. I would bet that both crocus and saffron were seen as holy and were dedicated to The Goddess...

This is a reconstruction drawing of a room in the complex of Akrotiri. This figure is interpreted as The Goddess overseeing the harvesting of the Saffron.



I would like to show you this detail in which you can see how she holds the saffron. She picks crimson crocus stigmas, and arranges them in in a bunch...


Now here is something interesting. Wall painting from the Cult Center at Mycenae...What is this woman (I think she is The Goddess) holding in her hands? What are these crimson bunches? 



Well I would suggest they are saffron bunches. Bunches of female reproductive organs...Like this one:


Here is why I waisted your time talking about saffron...This is "Lid of a pyxis originally containing face powder. Made in Ugarit, Syria, under Mycenaean influence, end of 2nd millennium BC". Apparently depicting "Mistress of the animals feeding goats"... 



"Mistress of the animals feeding goats"??? Or The Goddess, holding bunches of saffron, in October-November, when crocus blooms, saffron is collected, when dancing Ibex Goats announce the arrival of rains, the arrival of the Dark, Wet, Yin, Goddess half of the year...

I think that "Mistress of the animals" is a figment of the imagination of the archaeologists who didn't know what to make of all these images of a woman standing between animals...

But now that we know that goats, rams, lions, bulls, birds are all symbols marking a particular moment on the solar circle, I would propose that these images of women standing between animals depict The Goddess, Mother Earth, at particular moment in in the solar year...

Like this depiction of the "Female Divinity between Lions" on Amygdaloid Gem, Mycenae. 



This is one of endless depictions of The Goddess depicting her either between the lions, standing on a lion or being driven in a chariot pulled by lions... Basically Mother Earth during the time when Eurasian lions start mating which is August - September or in Zodiac, Leo - Virgo... I talked about this in my post "Assumption of Mary". The above gem actually shows a male and female lion, just in case there is any doubt what the image represents...🙂

So which animals do we find in the "Mistress of the animals" depictions? I know of Lions, Deer, Goat, Bird, Snake...I have never seen Bull...Any other ones that you know of? 

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Sanctuary Rhyton

I came across this interesting artefact the other day. It's the so called "Sanctuary Rhyton" from Zakros. It is dated to the Late Bronze Age, 1550-1500 BC.



The rhyton was discovered in the palace of Zakros, the most isolated of all the Minoan Palaces.



It is located on the east coast of Crete, south of Palaikastro. Its position, in a green valley surrounded by violet mountains, shelters it from the dangerously strong north winds that pass Cape Sidero on the northeast tip of Crete. It was the last of the major palaces to be discovered and is smaller than the other three at Knossos, Malia and Phaistos. Like the other three palaces, Zakros palace was also destroyed at the end of the third phase of the Neo-palatial period by "a sudden catastrophe" followed by fire...

The "Sanctuary Rhyton" is an amazing artefact. It is made of chlorite. The neck and rim retain traces of gilding, and very likely the entire vessel was gilded to give an impression of solid gold. It now exists, however, in contrasting sections of dark green and light brown, possibly the result of the broken pieces being burnt at different temperatures or of chemical reactions to the combustion fumes of whatever was burning nearby.

A rhyton decorated with what has traditionally been seen as a representation of a so called "Peak Sanctuary". Peak sanctuaries are widespread throughout the island of Crete and are, as their name suggests, located on mountain peaks. Like there is one on top of the this peak at Modi in eastern Crete.



Most scholars agree that peak sanctuaries were used for religious rites. In all of them, human and animal clay figurines have been found, and evidence of sacrifice is often present. There is some evidence that peak sanctuaries were visited seasonally. Peak Sanctuaries were a phenomenon dating from the Middle Minoan I period.

Now, here is the whole picture of the Peak Sanctuary from the Sanctuary Rhyton rolled out flat:



Most researchers assume that the rhyton depicts actual Minoan mountain peak sanctuary.

Van Leuven sees a resemblance to the Juktas sanctuary as seen from the east...



Lembessi and Muhly and Preziosi and Hitchcock have seen a resemblance to the Kato Syme sanctuary.



That's the one where all the votive plaques depicting Ibex hunting were found. I talk about this in my post "Goat riding thunder god". In the same article I tried to explain the root of the Ibex cult in Minoan, Mycenaean and Classical Greek civilisations...

Now that I know how important Ibex was for the Minoans, seeing an artefact like the Sanctuary Rhyton I immediately knew what I was looking at...But I wondered if anyone else knew...

So I started looking at published articles about this rhyton. And prevailing feeling of disappointment set in...

Apart from the general (not 100% though) agreement that the image depicts a Peak Sanctuary:

"We basically have no idea what to make of the image depicted on the Sanctuary Rhyton..."

An example of how little "we understand" artefact is the article entitled "The Sanctuary Rhyton" by Karla Huebner from Wright State University.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

We know little of the philosophy underlying Minoan religion...

We know merely that their beliefs were sufficiently complex as to involve shrines, votive offerings, multiple ritual acts and objects, mythological beings, and symbolism that mostly defies modern interpretation...

But the highly sophisticated nature of Minoan society and its complex ritual paraphernalia tell us that we are not dealing with a primitive fertility cult, important though fertility probably was in Minoan religion....

The Sanctuary Rhyton is generally considered a ritual vessel. Platon stresses the "exclusively cultic purpose of many rhyta with religious representations"....But we don't know how it could have been used...Everything we know about the Minoan world indicates that its religion was deeply bound to the natural world...So the natural scene depicted on the Sanctuary Rhyton has to have had a religious significance...

Altogether, six goats and two birds populate the landscape on the Sanctuary Rhyton. In
general their presence has been regarded as part of the scenery: that in essence a peak sanctuary can be expected to attract wildlife between human visits and that goats and birds signify the remote nature of the locale...

However, it seems important to note that the landscape on the Sanctuary Rhyton is constructed in a suspiciously hierarchical manner and, despite its absence of humans, closely resembles some of the cult scenes shown on seals where the so-called Mistress of the Animals is flanked by animals or birds of some sort or another...Considering that seals and other artefacts show a goddess figure accompanied by animals (particularly goats and birds), this so-called Mistress of the Animals is therefore implied by unpeopled scenes of goats and birds...Or The Goddess could be represented by the "baetyl", the rough stone poking between the two middle Ibex goats facing each other. These kind of stones were in the past believed to be of a divine origin and were worshipped as sacred. If baetyls have been correctly interpreted as an iconic representations of deities, then the goddess is already in the picture, flanked by her goats. The birds can be interpreted as representing "divine epiphany" and thus are yet another indicator of the possible complex sacred significance of the rhyton scene...

However, if the goats are considered to belong to the goddess, perhaps in this instance they represent her worshippers...

But why are the goats arranged the way they are? What of the two goats on the ground? Why are they left out of the hierarchy?

Here goes speculation about two paths to enlightenment, the religious one, depicted by the goat galloping through the gate, and mystic one, depicted by the goat leaping directly on to the highest platform. And that some think that the leaping goat is favoured over galloping goat...

Why should the leaping goat be favored over the galloping goat? To answer this question requires a greater knowledge of Minoan symbolism and iconography than we currently possess...

Finally the conclusion of the whole article:

Ultimately, the Sanctuary Rhyton presents us not only with a unique work of ancient Aegean art, but with an opportunity to ask a wide variety of questions about Minoan society, art, and religion...

Basically we have more questions than answers...

Ok, let me try to fill in the blanks...

1. I agree, this is definitely a ritual vessel.

2. It depicts a mountain peak sanctuary, during winter season. Saffron crocuses are depicted flowering on surrounding rocks and they flower from November onward. And the branches placed on the altar on the left hand side are olive branches, and olives are ready to be picked from November onward...

3. These sanctuaries were most likely built in such a way that Ibexes can enter them during their winter mating season, and the arrival of Ibexes was seen as a good omen.

In my post "Goat" I explained why the zodiac sign Capricorn is where it is on the zodiac circle.



In it I talked about the Ibex behaviour. For most of the year, males and females occupy different habitat. Females rely on steep terrain more so than males. Males use lowland meadows during the spring, which is when snow melts and green grass appears. They then climb to alpine meadows during the summer. When winter arrives, both sexes move to steep rocky slopes that amass little snow and spend the winter there. Once they are all together on high rocky mountain slopes, the are finally in position to start mating.

Ibex mating season is:

For Alpine Ibexes, December to January (Which is why in Europe, Ibex is associated with winter solstice)

For Bezoar Ibexes, November to January (Which is why in Middle East, Ibex is associated with the arrival of the rain season which starts in November)

For Cretan Ibexes, (descendant of Bezoar Ibex) October to November (Which is why in Crete, Ibex is associated with the arrival of the rain season which starts in October/November)

As I explained in my post "Goat riding thunder god, Cretan ibexes climbing the mountain peaks in October and starting their mating season, announce the arrival of the rain season, which in Crete starts in October and ends in April...And the arrival of the Thunder (Storm, Rain) God...

Which opens a very interesting question: Who were the mountain sanctuaries dedicated to? Well, The Goddess, Mother Earth, as the rain season is the time when Earth (Cold, Dark, Wet, Yin) rules over climatic Earth-Sun system...But I believe that in Crete, these sanctuaries were also dedicated to the Thunder (Storm, Rain) God. Have you ever wondered why mountain peaks are associated with thunder gods? The usual explanation is because they attract lots of lightning...I bought that too...Until now...Are mountain peaks associated with thunder gods because He arrives when Ibexes climb the mountain peaks? And if so, is this another religious relic that entered Europe from the south east, as it only makes sense in Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East?

4. The six goats don't represent the worshipers. They represent 6 rain season months: October/November to March/April.



As you can see the highest precipitation is between October and March...It is during Winter and Spring rivers, streams and wells fill with water from Winter rainfall and the Spring melting of the snow from the mountains. Most rivers and streams are dry by the end of May!!! Springs start drying out towards the end of the summer...After which the only water available to the people is the water collected during Winter and Spring in cisterns...Cisterns are still used all over Eastern Mediterranean even today....I believe that what Ibexes are sitting on is the depiction water (spirals, waves) filling in a cistern...





Which brings be back to this statement from the article:

"The Sanctuary Rhyton is generally considered a ritual vessel. Platon stresses the "exclusively cultic purpose of many rhyta with religious representations"....But we don't know how it could have been used..."

Now this rhyton is super weird. It is very tall and narrow...Its height is 310 mm...Now the total average yearly precipitation on Crete is 476 mm...But this rhyton was made during Minoan Warm Period...When the average yearly temperature was much higher than today. Which means that possibly the average yearly precipitation on Crete was lower...



Now, today the total precipitation during the 6 goat months is 420 mm. How much was it during Minoan Warm Period? Somewhere between 420 mm and 310 mm? Or maybe the winter precipitation was actually higher....

To measure precipitation, you would use a tube of equal with opened towards the sky. The height of water in the tube is the measure of precipitation.




The rhyton is not of equal with, so 10mm of rain during early months would create thicker layer of water in the rhyton than 10mm of rain during later months...I wonder...If we got a tube of water of the same radius as the rhyton neck and the height of 420 mm and poured it into the rhyton would it fill the rhyton or not? The thing I am hinting to is: is it possible that this rhyton was used as the precipitation measuring device??? If the rhyton was full of water at the end of the rain season season, then cisterns were also full of water and people will not suffer from thirst during late summer early autumn drought time...

Also, remember that in the past rain was seen as "holy water" with magic properties. Rain was also seen as "Sky father's semen" which fertilises Mother Earth and creates life...So a rhyton full of holy water could have been used in fertility related ceremonies, probably performed during the other, Hot, Dry, Yang, part of the year...

5. The speculation about two paths to enlightenment, the religious one, depicted by the goat galloping through the gate, and mystic one, depicted by the goat leaping directly on to the highest platform, is complete...

The article states that:

"Everything we know about the Minoan world indicates that its religion was deeply bound to the natural world...So the natural scene depicted on the Sanctuary Rhyton has to have had a religious significance..."

Which is spot on. The problem, as always is in this statement from the article:

"But the highly sophisticated nature of Minoan society and its complex ritual paraphernalia tell us that we are not dealing with a primitive fertility cult, important though fertility probably was in Minoan religion...."

For our ancestors, the life creating interplay between Father Sky (Sun) and Mother Earth, was the most important thing in the world. Their lives depended on these two getting dirty together and producing crops...As far as I can see, no religious symbol is randomly chosen. They all have their root in nature and describe natural phenomena which was important to our peasant ancestors...It's the town folk, like aristocrats, philosophers, priests...who got separated from the land and eventually forgot the original meaning of these symbols. Or, like our modern archaeologists, didn't think they were cool enough or deep enough (you know the statement "that can't be all...") who went on turning natural religion into supernatural one, obscuring in process what was behind it all...

So why are the goats arranged the way they are arranged?



The leaping goat represents the Ibex goat which climbs the mountain peaks during October to start the mating season...



This is also the beginning of the rain season. Precipitation rises.

The four sitting goats represent the months of the highest precipitation: November, December, January, February...

The sixth goat running down from the mountain represents the end of rain season which ends at the end of March. Precipitation quickly dwindles...

Between the two middle goats is Winter Solstice...

6. The rock between the two middle Ibexes does represent The Goddess. In the Balkans shepherds used to pray to Baba (Mother Earth) stones (rocky crags, exposed bedrock) for good weather. Rocks were seen as body of Baba (Mother, Grandmother, Mother Earth, Yin) who was also seen as the source of cold, wet (bad) weather. The pointy rocks were also used in weather making, rain controlling magic...I talked about this in my post "Grýla". The pointy rock in the centre of the picture was most likely seen by the Minoans as significant, as the depiction of the Mother Earth, Baba (Mother, Grandmother, Mother Earth, Yin)...The rock worship, very similar to the Slavic (and Baltic) rock worship, is depicted on Minoan artefacts...I will talk about this in more details soon...

Another ancient mythological and ritual trait preserved by Balkan Slavs???

7. The birds definitely don't represent "divine epiphany" and are not "yet another indicator of the possible complex sacred significance of the rhyton scene"...

Crete is on a major bird migratory route between Europe and Africa. A lot of migrating birds just fly over, with some stopping for a rest. Some European birds though actually winter in Crete.



This bird watching article says that: "Autumn passage begins in late August and lasts until October. Winter visitors arrive by the beginning of November leave by the end of March. Spring passage begins in late March and lasts until May."


The birds depicted on the rhyton are of the same species. Any ornithologists here to identify it? Considering that the bird on the left is sitting and not flying, it is probably one of the wintering birds...

In my post "Leto" I talked about the fact that in Slavic folklore the migrating birds are the heralds of the beginning and the end of the hot (fertile) part of the year in the temperate Eurasia. Their arrival in spring is ritually celebrated. In Crete, because the climate is different, the migrating birds are heralds of the beginning and the end of the cold (fertile) part of the year...Their arrival in autumn was most likely also ritually celebrated by Minoans...

Another ancient mythological and ritual trait preserved by Balkan Slavs???

So why is this rhyton so misunderstood???

Because archaeologists don't study natural sciences, which are not deemed important for understanding our ancestors who lived in nature, from nature...Beggars belief I know...Also because everyone keeps looking for "deeper" meaning...Things can't be this simple, right?

PS: I will talk about "The horns of consecration" which are littering the scene in another post...

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Goat riding thunder god



Norse thunder god Thor, Slavic thunder god Perun and Baltic thunder god Perkūnas all rode the sky in a chariot drawn by goats...Why?

I will here try to answer this question. But I have to warn you: answering this question will open many many interesting questions about the origin of North European pagan religions...

From what I can see, there is not explanation why these north European thunder gods are driving around in goat pulled chariots. Apart from "this belief comes from common Indo-European belief system"...Which is like saying "I have no idea what all this goat rubbish is all about".

To find why Northern European thunder gods ride around in goat pulled chariots, we have to look southward. To Ancient Greece...

In Greek mythology, the thunder god Zeus was a son of Cronus and Rhea. Cronus learned from Gaia and Uranus that he was destined to be overthrown by his son as he had previously overthrown Uranus, so as soon as Rhea had a child, Cronus would promptly swallow it.

When Zeus was about to be born, Rhea sought Gaia to devise a plan to save him. So she gave birth to Zeus in Crete, and gave him to Ἀμάλθεια  (Amaltheia) who became his foster mother. Rhea then gave Cronus a rock wrapped in swaddling clothes, which he promptly swallowed.



Ἀμάλθεια  (Amaltheia) took Zeus to a cave in Cretan Αἰγαῖον ὄρος (Goat Mountain), today Dikti where she nursed him feeding him goat milk. In order that Cronus should not hear the wailing of the infant, Amalthea gathered about the cave the Kuretes or the Korybantes to dance, shout, and clash their spears against their shields...

Now here is an interesting thing about Zeus's foster mother. The name Amaltheia, means "tender goddess" in Ancient Greek. There were two different traditions regarding her identity. In the first one, Amaltheia is a goat-tending nymph of uncertain parentage. In the second one Amaltheia is a she goat...

In some traditions, Amaltheia's skin, or that of her goat which sucked infant Zeus, taken by Zeus in honour of her when she died, became the "Αιγις" (Aegis),  a kind of "protective thing carried by Zeus who then gave it to Athena". Apparently, the exact nature of "aegis" is uncertain...

In "The New World Encyclopedia" we can read that the Greek word Αιγις (Aegis) has 3 meanings:

1. "violent windstorm" from the verb 'αïσσω (stem 'αïγ-) meaning "I rush or move violently"
2. "goatskin coat" from treating the word as "something grammatically feminine pertaining to goat (Greek αιξ (stem αιγ-))"
3. "Zeus' shield"

"The New World Encyclopedia then goes to say that the original meaning of Aegis may have been "storm". That would mean that Zeus's epithet "Ζευς Αιγιοχος" (Zeus Aigioxos), usually understood to mean "Zeus who holds the aegis", may have originally meant "Stormy sky".

The transition to the meaning "shield" may have emerged as a folk-etymology among a people familiar with draping an animal skin over the left arm as a shield. It is also noted that since the Greek word aegis contains the double-meaning of "stormy" and "goatish" that this accounts for the close connection between the goat and storms in myth...

In "Indo-European Poetry and Myth" By M. L. West, Morris West we read that Zeus "Αιγιοχος" might originally have meant Zeus who rides on a goat...Apparently, in one of Orphic theogonies, Zeus rode to heaven on a goat...

So, it seems that the Indo-Europeans really did have a thing for making their thunder gods ride on goats...

But why was Zeus nursed by a goat? And why did he also ride on a goat?

Well to get the answer this this question we have to look at Cretan climate.

I lived in Chania in Crete many years ago. It is an incredibly beautiful place full of charm and history.



I arrived in May and left next April...There was not a drop of rain between May and late October. Then after occasional October shower, it started to rain in November, and it pretty much didn't stop until early April...

The Crete climate is characterised by hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. The rainy season starts in late October and lasts till March or even April.



Snowfalls are extremely rare in the coastal zone of Crete, especially so in the eastern part of the island, but are plentiful in the central mountain region. This is what I saw above Chania when I arrived in May. It was already 30 degrees in town and I thought the mountain tops were white because of white rocks. It turned out they were covered in half a meter of snow...



Now what does this have to do with goats?

This is Cretan wild goat (scient. Capra aegagrus creticus), also known as agrimi, kri-kri, or Cretan Ibex, an endemic subspecies of wild goat.



Red-brown steatite pyramidal stamp seal engraved with a design of an Ibex goat. Middle Minoan I, Early Minoan III, 2300BC-1850BC, Excavated in Crete



The Cretan Ibex lives in arid high mountain areas. They go out for pasture in the morning and evening, sheltering during the day in rocky recesses and caves!!! Most of the year they live in same-sex herds of up to 20 animals, with fully mature males actually living alone. During the breeding season however, male and female animals mix and the most dominant males form harems. The male domination is determined through spectacular fights...



Now here is the important bit: The mating period of the Cretan Ibex goat, during which it radically changes its behaviour starts in October and November. Right at the beginning of the Cretan rain season.


Agrimi or wild goats, Middle Minoan II (1900 BC-1750 BC) seal stone. 


Why would Minoans have wild ibex goat mating on seal?

In the past people believed that rain is the gift of rain (storm) gods. Rain storms were equaled with storm gods...

Minoans could be excused for believing that the arrival of rain was in some way linked to Ibex goats. Every year the beginning of the Cretan Ibex mating season signalled the arrival of the rain storms...It almost looks like the rain storms were caused by, brought by Ibex goat...Which eventually lead to the image of the rain (storm) god arriving  on a goat, or in chariots pulled by goats...

Now let's go back to the Ancient Greek legend about the infant Zeus.

Infant Zeus - the storms and storm gods were equated in the past, the beginning of the storm season can then be symbolically depicted as the infancy of the Storm god Zeus.

Infant Zeus was nursed by a goat in a cave on a Goat Mountain (!!!) - during the beginning of the storm season, Cretan Ibex (which shelters in caves) ascends to the rocky snow free mountain tops and begins its mating season.

Infant Zeus is protected by clashing, noise making Kuretes or the Korybantes (!!!) - Cretan Ibex mating season is the time of vicious clanging banging male goat fights...

Zeus, once grown up, ascends from the goat mountain to the sky (heaven) riding on a goat, or wearing a goat skin, or carrying a goat shield (!!!)...

Sounds pretty obvious when you put it side by side...

I believe that Ibex had a huge religious significance in Minoan culture. Here is why:

The dry season in Crete is the dead season. The relentless sun burns down day after day, scorching and drying everything. By the time the first October rains arrive, the soil is rock hard and dead dry, the plants are dead yellow brown, and the wells and river beds are dry...



Everyone is looking at the sky, waiting for the arrival of the first rain bearingn clouds...

And then the Ibex mating season starts, and the first rains arrive...The wells and river beds start filling in again. The flowers, like wild saffron, start flowering.



By the way the main wild flower season in Crete starts in late autumn and ends in early spring...

The soil, which is now softened by rain, is ploughed and winter grain is sown, which very quickly sprouts and starts groing as more and more rain falls.

The life returns.

In Crete, the Storm god, who arrives when Cretan Ibex mating season starts, doesn't just bring rain. He brings life. Well actually, Minoans probably saw Ibex as the bringer of life...Which is why Ibex is seen on Minoan fresco from Knossos flanking "the tree of life" while crocuses are blooming all around. By the way, the tree is olive. And olives are harvested from late October, early November...So this fresco depicts the beginning of the rain season, when ibexes fight, crocuses bloom and olives are ripe...



The above fresco is from the article "The Frescoes from the House of the Frescoes at Knossos: A Reconsideration of Their Architectural Context and a New Reconstruction of the Crocus Panel" by Anne P. Chapin and Maria C. Shaw

Here is another depiction of ibexes facing the tree of life, this time on a Minoan seal from Goulas Crete




Of course the religious importance of this image is totally missed by archaeologists...

I like this statement: Some academics believe that Cretan Ibex was worshiped on the island during antiquity. But why? The same academics have no idea...


What is interesting about the depictions of Ibexes in Minoan art is that they are depicted in two completely different ways. 

If they are in the same scene with women they are depicted happily roaming among the vegetation with women, like on this wall paintings from Room 14 at Hagia Triada


or they are even being petted by women, like on these seals




Both images are from "Image and Architecture: Reflections of Mural Iconography in Seal Images and Other Art Forms of Minoan Crete" by Fritz Blakolmer

If they are in the same scene with men, they are being hunted by men...

Like on these votive plaques depicting men hunting Crete Ibex from  "The Knossos Hunt and wild goats in ancient Crete" by Jonas Eiring






They were found in the "Simi sanctuary". This sanctuary complex is situated on the southern side of Mount Dikte (yes the goat mountain where goat suckled infant Zeus), 1,200 metres above sea level, just above the village of Kato Simi or Symi. Unusually for Crete this sanctuary remained in constant use from the Minoan Protopalatial MM II period (1900 BC-1750 BC), up to Roman times. The explanation proposed was that hunting Ibex goats was a kind of initiation rite for young men in Minoan society...

Maybe. Or maybe the Ibex hunting was reenacting of a cosmic hunt which takes place every year right in the middle of the Eurasian Ibex mating season (November-January) when Sagittarius (the hunter) ends and Capricorn (the goat) begins. On winter solstice... 



I talked about this in my post "Zlatorog-Goldhorn". By pure "coincidence" this is the period of the highest precipitation in Crete...Which is what goat brings...

The hunting scenes depicting men and dogs hunting Ibex goats become very common on seals and gems from Middle Minoan period (1900BC). This is one from the base of an ivory half cylinder found in Knossos. Ibex is again depicted together with a green branch...



From "The palace of Minos : a comparative account of the successive stages of the early Cretan civilization as illustrated by the discoveries at Knossos" by Sr Arhur Evans

These "talismanic" seals depicting ibex about to be pierced by a spear...They all also have depictions of growing plants. What were they depicting? Are these spears or lightning bolts? Was Ibex ritually hunted and sacrificed? These plaques are dated to Late Minoan I period (1480BC-1425BC) are from "Minoan Goat Hunting: Social Status and the Economics of War" by Angela Murock Hussein



In "Wild Nature? Human–Animal Relations on Neopalatial Crete" by Andrew Shapland we can read that "The goats are often shown speared, suggesting that these are hunting scenes"...Basically Ibex goats were for Minoans just game, hunted for meat, skin and horn...

But this doesn't explain why was Ibex apparently treated differently by women and men? Well, again I couldn't find any answer to this question.

So here is what I think.

Remember Serbian and Celtic calendar, which divided the solar year into only two seasons: one Dark, Wet, Cold, Yin, Feminine, Dominated by The Goddess, Mother Earth (Rhea???) (Winter and Spring) which started in November and the other one Light, Dry, Hot, Yang, Masculine, Dominated by The God, Father Sun (Summer and Autumn) which started in May?



Where did Serbs and Celts get this idea of two season year? Where did the Celts get the idea that the New Year should start on Samhain, 1st of November? This certainly doesn't match the Central European climate...I talked about this calendar in my posts "Two crosses" and "Two Georges"...

From Minoans maybe? The Ibex mating season which starts at the end of October beginning of November marks the beginning of the Yin, Female season. Now Ibex gestation period is 147 to 180 days, which means that the kids are born between April and June...Righ at the beginning of the Yang, Male season...I talked about this in my post "Yin and Yang".

And guess what: The winter grain planted at the beginning of the Ibex mating season are ready to be harvested at the end of the Ibex gestation period, right when the young Ibex kids are being born...How cool is this? Here is a seal depicting ibex and what looks like barley...What is the symbol above the Ibex?



Now in my post "Symbols of the seasons" I talked about the fact that Ibex is the symbol of winter. The reason why Ibex is the symbol of winter is because all Ibexes in northern hemisphere mate during the winter period, normally from October-November to January.

So...

Yin, Female, Goddess, part of the year, was life producing part of the year, hence happy goats with women (goddesses)??? Yang, Male, God part of the year was life destroying part of the year, hence dead goats with men (gods)???

At the opposite side of the solar circle, summer starts in May with the calving and ends in August with mating of of aurochs (wild Eurasian cattle). Which is why Bull is the symbol of summer.

Do we find this division of the solar year between bull and goat part? I think we do.

This is a larnax, a type of small closed coffin, box or "ash-chest" often used as a container for human remains. It was found in Mycenaean Tanagra cemetery which was dated to 14th - 13th century BC...



And it was definitely developed under huge Minoan influence. This can be seen from the fact that the bottom part of the panel depicts bull leaping, favourite "past time" of the Minoans. I would say that this activity was a religious ceremony performed during the bull part of the year, summer. In the top panel we see Ibex goat hunt. I would say religious ceremony performed during the goat part of the year, winter.  The main question here is why was this panel divided like this? And why were these two scenes depicted separated like this?

We know that the Ibex cult existed in Mycenae, to where it was most likely brought from Minoan Crete. We can see this from seals found in Mycenaean sites.

This is a Lentoid Gem depicting Sacred Tree and Ibex Goats from Mycenae.




This is next artefact, a Gold Signet Ring from Mycenae, is even more interesting.



In "Mycenaean Tree and Pillar Cult and Its Mediterranean Relations, Journal of Hellenic Studies 21, 1901" Arthur Evans says this about this artefact:

"In the gold ring from the Lower Town of Mycenae, a man in the usual Mycenaean garb, who perhaps answers to the male attendant of the Goddess in other religious scenes, is seen reaching out his hand towards the topmost bough of what is perhaps also intended for a fruit tree. Behind him with the branches of another tree visible above the back, stands a large agrimi or Cretan wild goat - an animal seen elsewhere in connexion with female votaries. This goat may represent the sacred animal of either the male or female member of the divine pair referred to in the preceding- sections....the votive remains of the Diktaean Cave as well as the traditions of Amaltheia tend to show that this animal was sacred to the indigenous 'Zeus' at an earlier period than the bull. The ox indeed in any form seems to be absent in the more primitive archaeological strata of the island"

This is very very interesting on so many levels...

Cretan wild goat - an animal seen elsewhere in connexion with female votaries (Symbol of the Goddess, Yin, part of the year), was once the symbol of Zeus, who was later associated with the bull, but Evans didn't know why...

Now the climate in Mycenae, on Peloponnesus, is similar the climate in Crete, consisting of hot dry summers and mild wet winters. But year is not clearly divided into dry and wet period, as can be seen from the precipitation table.



It basically can rain all year round, and the rains start in September, right after the Aurochs mating season, which is why eventually, Zeus, rain storm, became associated with bull...

So Mycenaeans didn't have a direct obvious reason to associate Ibex with Zeus, Rains storm...

Yet on mainland Greece, Ibex was still seen as "the bringer of life"...Except after a while everyone forgot why...Which is why eventually this life bringing goat, whose mad mating causes nature to flourish, flowers to flower, trees to bud, rivers to flow....became Πάν (Pan)...

Pan, who has the hindquarters, legs, and horns of a goat, in the same manner as a faun or satyr. Whose skin is Pan carrying? Is this "Αιγις" (Aegis),  the goat skin which Zeus carried from Crete? It just occurred to me. What do you get if you clothe Holy Zeus, the bringer of rain, in goat skin? Holy Ibex Goat, the bringer of rain, of course...



Pan, the god of the wild, nature of mountain wilds, natural vegetative cycle caused by gods rather than men.

Pan, the lover and companion of the Nymphs (nature sprits) and particularly the darling of Naiades (nymphs presiding over fountains, wells, springs, streams, brooks and other bodies of fresh water)...No wonder considering that it is the Holy Goat who used to bring rain and fresh water to Minoan Crete... 

Pan, the symbol of sex and lust and therefore symbol of fertility. Who because of different climate on Greek mainland, became associated with the season of spring and Aphrodite, goddess of love and spring. No wonder, that on mainland Greece Spring, and not Winter, was the time when life returned to the nature...



Pan, who in his earliest appearance in literature, Pindar's Pythian Ode iii. 78, was associated with a mother goddess. Perhaps Rhea??? The Goddess which is always playing with goats on Minoan artefacts??? And who gave Zeus to a goat to mind him?

Pan, whose worship began in Arcadia which was always the principal seat of his worship. Arcadia was a district of mountain people, culturally separated from other Greeks. Remember, Greeks considered Arcadians the oldest inhabitants of Greece, Pelasgians. They were so ancient and so traditional and archaic that they still ate acorns...I talked about this in my posts "Acorns in ancient texts" and "Pelasgos". And they still remembered at leas part of the "Old faith", before Olympians arrived...Ahh. Arcadia is sooo close to Mycenae...Where Minoan Holy Ibex landed on the Greek mainland...

Pan, who as a "rustic god" (read here "old god"), was not worshipped in temples or other built edifices, but in natural settings, usually caves or grottoes such as the one on the north slope of the Acropolis of Athens. These are often referred to as the Cave of Pan...Hmmm...Cave...Just like the holy cave in holy Goat Mountain here the Holy Goat nursed the Holy Infant Zeus...

Pan, who was a hunter, and to whom hunters owed their success or failure and whose statue Arcadian hunters used to scourge if they had been disappointed during hunt. Hmmmm....Holy hunt again???

And here is the best bit...

Pan's parentage is unclear. In most accounts though, he is the son of Zeus...Hmmm...Considering that it is the Holy Goat which brings forth the Holy God...

Hyginus says that Aega (whose name means probably She Goat) who was a daughter of Melisseus, king of Crete, was chosen to suckle the infant Zeus. But as she had no milk, it was goat Amalthea who suckled infant Zeus. Hyginus also says that while married to Pan, Aega had a son by Zeus whom she called Aegipan (Goat Pan), and who was also suckled by Amalthea...Hmmm...So both Zeus and Pan were suckled by the same She Goat...



Zeus actually tells Athena that "...goatfoot Pan...once was mountain-ranging shepherd of the goat Amaltheia my nurse, who gave me milk"...Meaning that Pan, Holy Goat, was there before the arrival of Zeus, Holy God...

And finally, the BESTEST :) bit: 

Pan aided his foster-brother Zeus in the battle with the Typhon...



TYPHOEUS (Typhon) was a monstrous "storm-giant" who laid siege to heaven but was defeated by Zeus. He was the source of devastating storms which issued forth from that dark nether-realm. 

I don't think Typhon was a storm giant or a source of devastating storms...He was The Dragon, the symbol of destructive blazing heat of the late summer...

Typhoeus was a winged giant, said to be so huge that his head brushed the stars. He was a sky being not being of the nether realm...


Hesiod in his Theogony dated to 8th or 7th century BC describes him like this:

"Typhoeus; the hands and arms of him are mighty, and have work in them, and the feet of the powerful god were tireless, and up from his shoulders there grew a hundred snake heads, those of a dreaded drakon (dragon-serpent), and the heads licked with dark tongues, and from the eyes on the inhuman heads fire glittered from under the eyelids: from all his heads fire flared from his eyes' glancing; and inside each one of these horrible heads there were voices that threw out every sort of horrible sound, for sometimes it was speech such as the gods could understand, but at other times, the sound of a bellowing bull, proud-eyed and furious beyond holding, or again like a lion shameless in cruelty, or again it was like the barking of dogs, a wonder to listen to..."

Snakes are symbol of sun's heat.

Dragons breathing fire or glaring fire are symbols of the destructive sun's heat at the end of the summer which brings draught. 

Bellowing bull is the symbol of summer, because summer starts in Taurus. 

Lion is the symbol of the end of summer, the hottest part of the year, which falls in the middle of Leo. 

Dogs are symbol of "Dogs days", the hottest 7 days of the year. Middle of Leo falls in the middle of Dog Days...

Typhoeus was also described as a giant which was "breathing fire" and whose eyes were "flashing fire"...

Hardly a description of a Storm Giant...

But then, I love that Typhoeus also had "a filthy, matted beard and pointed ears"...Just like Pan who looks suspiciously like an Ibex goat. The Holy Goat which brought rain to Minoan Crete every October-November and ended the drought...The Goat who killed Typhoeus...Or as Zeus bragged "who helped him kill Typhoeus"...

Oh, by the way, did you know that we also have Panes "rustic spirits" of the mountains and highland pastures who protected the goat herds and sheep flocks which grazed these lands. Panes were depicted as goat-footed men with the horns, tail, beard, snub nose and ears of a goat. They sometimes had actual goat-heads instead of just a few goatish features. As lascivious fertility spirits they were often depicted with erect members...



Jumping, noise making, horny Ibex Goats during their mating season, which announce the arrival of life bringing rain to Minoan Crete, springs to mind immediately...No wonder Panes were "the attendants upon the sacred rites of Rhea and Dionysos"...Life bringing sacred rites of Mother Goddess and...That is another story for another time...

Soooooo....

What was the original question? Ah yes: Why are Norse thunder god Thor, Slavic thunder god Perun and Baltic thunder god Perkūnas all riding the sky in a chariot drawn by goats?

Well we know now why. But how come this image of the Thunder god arriving in a chariot pulled by goats was preserved by Norse, Balts and Slavs...All the way up in the north of Europe, where Thunder god riding on a chariot pulled by goats makes no sense at all, because the climate there is completely different...

And how come it did not survive in Greece? Or Rome? 

I believe that this means that this belief must have been brought to the north of Europe from all the way down south before the Greek Dark Age...Before the collapse of the Greek Bronze Age...Before the collapse of Minoan and Mycenaean civilisations...Before the reason why it is the Holy Goat who brings life was forgotten...

One possible scenarios is:

Mycenaeans controlled amber trading route which connected Balkan and Baltic. They brought their stories about rain bringing goat up north. Time passed... Civilisations crumbled... The stories became legends... Legends whose original meaning was forgotten... And we ended up with goat riding thunder gods of the Norse, Slavs and Balts...

This would mean that these legends are what, only 3500 years old!!! And that Mycenaeans influenced the development of Norse, Slavic and Baltic culture...Not bad...

Another possible scenario...

Well it makes these legends much much older...Over 7000 years old...You didn't think Minoans were the first people to worship the Holy Goat???

I will write about this in my next post. This one is already toooooooo long... And this next post will open many many many interesting questions about the origin of the "Indo-European" religious beliefs, culture and language...