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KRONOS Vol IX, No. 2
KRONOS, MINOS, AND THE CELESTIAL LABYRINTH
A central theme running throughout the writings of Immanuel Velikovsky is the intimate association between myth and history. Beginning with the Exodus account and Athena's birth in Worlds in Collision, continuing with the Oedipus legend in Oedipus and Akhnaton, and throughout the Ages in Chaos series, Velikovsky sought to find in myth a key to history. While other scholars have also considered myth to be a reflection of history, Velikovsky's originality lies in the identification of planetary agents as the fundamental protagonists of ancient myth. Thus, according to him, it was the celestial fireworks associated with Athena as the planet Venus that inspired several of the greatest of Greek myths. There can be little doubt that Velikovsky's acumen in this area will one day revolutionize the study of ancient religion and history.
I too believe that many ancient myths originated in, and describe, a cataclysmic celestial past. For the past several years I have been pursuing research into the reinterpretation of Classical myths along Velikovskian lines. Throughout this time, it has become increasingly clear how intermingled myth and history actually are. I would like to illustrate this point by a brief discussion of traditions associated with Minos, the illustrious king of Crete, hoping that it will serve as an example to others engaged in similar studies.
The origins of the hero who bestowed his name to an entire civilization, Minoan Crete, are shrouded in the mists of antiquity. Legend has it that Minos was a great law-giving king from the earliest remembered times of Greece, best known for his labyrinthine palace and association with the notorious Minotaur. A man-eating monster, the Minotaur was said to have been engendered from the illicit union of a giant white bull and Pasiphae, who was Minos' queen. Concealed within the confines of a vast labyrinth, the Minotaur received a tribute-sacrifice of fourteen Athenian youths every eight years.(1)
The tale of Theseus' combat with the Minotaur is one of the most famous of the Greek myths. Exactly what lies behind this myth has been an unsolved mystery for over two thousand years. The consensus of modern scholarship seems to hold that the Minotaur was a symbolic representation of the Sun. Several scholars have concluded that the myth grew out of sacred mimetic dances which once took place upon labyrinthine floors by celebrants in bestial outfits. A. B. Cook gave his conclusion on this as follows:
One needs to ask: By what stretch of the imagination can the Sun be visualized as a bull, or its motion as labyrinthine? These are not natural or obvious associations, even though the worldwide occurrence of a bovine monster or god lurking within a labyrinthine abode would seem to suggest a celestial precedent, albeit a more tangible one. Perhaps, as Velikovsky and David Talbott have suggested, these widespread traditions pertain to a celestial occurrence more ancient than the Greeks, one that is now lost.
That the Minotaur was celestial in nature is indicated by his epithet, Asterius, as also by the fact that ancient representations of the Minoan labyrinth sometimes substituted a star for the monstrous bull.(3) As Kerenyi points out, the Classical myth of Pasiphae's bulllike son, "is considerably humanized. The Minotaur of the older myth was bull and star at the same time."(3a) A crucial clue to the Minoan legend is provided by the additional fact that Dionysus was said to have appeared immediately upon the death of the Minotaur, whereupon he wedded Ariadne.(4) Clearly then, the Minotaur and Dionysus are somehow related, and I would suggest that the Minotaur is a mythical caricature of a once great god.
The motif of a god assuming bovine form is a common one in Greek mythology, the tale of Zeus' rape of Europa being one famous example. Dionysus was also well-known for his bovine appearance.(5) Thus, in the mystic rites of Dionysus, the bull was regarded as an epiphany of the god, much as was the case with the Egyptian Apis bull in relation to Osiris. In Crete, the Dionysian rites are said to have featured the tearing apart and raw feasting of a bull by frenzied worshippers (5a)
Poseidon also had intimate associations with the bull, Taureos being one of his epithets. In Plato's famous description of the island kingdom of Atlantis, it was Poseidon who was honored by the sacrifice of sacred bulls.(6) In ritual, Poseidon was frequently represented by a bull, and some mythographers held that the white bull which ravaged Pasiphae was actually a tauriform Poseidon.(7) In fact, some ancient writers identified Minos with Poseidon; others considered the great king to be his son.(8)
Exactly which "star" or god was symbolized by the Minotaur is indicated by the following circumstance: Wherever one looks in the ancient traditions, the primordial god is not only bovine as Cook discovered in Crete - but also the planet Saturn. In this category belong the Egyptian Osiris, Sumerian Dumuzi, Canaanite El, Norse Freyr, and Greek Dionysus.(9) Cook, who produced a great deal of evidence relating the Minotaur to Kronos, failed to draw the logical conclusion that the celestial bull was somehow related to the planet Saturn.
MENES AND MIN
Satisfied that I had made some progress into the riddle of the Minotaur, I began to look into legends associated with labyrinths. The Minoan palace of Knossos was not the only labyrinth celebrated in ancient myth. According to Diodorus Siculus,(10) the Knossian palace owed its famous design to an ancient king of Egypt, Mendes by name. Mendes would appear to be identical with Menes (variously spelled by ancient writers) whom modern scholars recognize as the first king of the first Dynasty of ancient Egypt. Of the accomplishments of Menes much has been written. Henri Frankfort, for example, concluded that "the traditions regarding Menes can only mean that he unified the whole of Egypt''.(11)
Diodorus' account of Menes is much the same:
Renowned as a law-giver, Menes was also mentioned by Herodotus, who called him Min.(13) And it is here, in my opinion, that the original identity of Menes discloses itself, for Min was also the name of one of the great gods of ancient Egypt whose corresponding traditions mark him as a religious parallel to Osiris.
Actually Min was held to be the son of Osiris, but his most common epithet, Kamutef, meaning "bull of his mother", reminds us of similar traditions surrounding Osiris.(14) The ithyphallic Min was celebrated as the creator of vegetation and was associated with festivities at harvest-time:
If Menes and Min are identical, as appears most probable, we again find the first king of a great civilization associated with a labyrinth, a white bull, and a great set of laws - three features which are also common to the myth of the Cretan Minos. As the god of harvest, Min naturally recalls Saturnus, the Roman god of the crop. In the light of the Saturnian origin of Dionysus, it is also significant to find Men as one of his epithets. Robert Graves has even identified Dionysus with Minos.(16)
Further support for the Saturnian origin of Minos and Menes can perhaps be gleaned by brief consideration of a comparable figure in Hindu mythology. There the legendary first king was known as Manu, about whom more information has been preserved than about the Egyptian Menes. Manu was famed for his collection of laws known as the Codes of Manu. Like Menes he was regarded as the first to institute religious ceremonies and sacrifices.(17) One scholar has observed that Manu was "regarded as the progenitor of the present race of human beings, and has been compared to the Noah of the Old Testament from various legends current in Sanskrit literature of his preservation from a great flood".(18)
Do we then have any clues concerning the original identity of the Hindu Manu? That Manu is to be identified with Saturn has long been recognized, most recently by Talbott. Under the name Manu-Satyavrata, this identification becomes explicit.(19) "Satyavrata" is the Sanskrit equivalent of the Slavic "Sitivrat"; as Jacob Grimm showed, both mean "Saturn".(20) Here it is interesting to observe that Manu was also represented by a sacred bull.(21)
Had space permitted, further parallels to Minos could have been presented from all around the world. Thus I could have included discussions of Menwyd - the Druidic hero of the Deluge - the Germanic Mannus, the Algonquin Manabozho, and the Greek Minyas and Menestheus.(21a) Perhaps even the great Menelaus, hero of the Iliad and husband of Helen, will be found to trace to the same root and thus to Saturn.
HUWAWA, TLALOC, AND MOLOCH
The word "labyrinth" apparently signifies "palace of the double-axe".(22) Cook, who dealt at great length with traditions involving labyrinths, noted that the Cretan double-axe was uniquely associated with Kronos:
Scholars who have dealt with the symbology of the labyrinth have observed that it frequently possesses archetypal significance with regard to ancient conceptions of the Underworld.(24) One of the world's most ancient myths, for example, tells of the fall of the Babylonian Hades, known as Huwawa (Assyrian Humbaba), described as being labyrinthine-faced.(25) Huwawa was a terrifying monster of Molochian appetites and may have been bovine in form. As Stephen Langdon observed, Huwawa was no mere monster; he was clearly also a god.(26)
The Aztecs possessed a similar labyrinthine-faced deity named Tlaloc.(27) The god of vegetation and rain, Tlaloc was associated with sacrificial rites which were as groteque as his appearance:
These rites, like those associated with Moloch, were also cannibalistic .(28a)
Perhaps the most notorious of these child-sacrifices were those found in the worship of the Biblical ogre, Moloch. Frank Cross, the noted Biblical scholar, shows that rites of a Molochian type were practiced throughout the ancient world. He concludes:
My purpose in bringing up this subject is to attempt to throw some light on the sacrifice of the Athenian youths to the Minotaur. Here one might at first suspect that memories of ancient religious practices have crept into the Minoan myth, but the truth is that the Cretans were notorious for their rites of child-sacrifice.(30) Porphyry has preserved for us the fact that the Cretans sacrificed their youths to Kronos-Saturn.(31 )
As the sacrificial rites of Tlaloc have led us directly to Saturn, with whom in fact he has been identified, so too does Tlaloc's association with the Mexican Elysian Fields.(32) For in Classical mythology Kronos was deemed the ruler of the Elysian Fields. In ancient Crete, however, it was Minos who held this position.(33)
These traditions, which have filtered down to us from ancient Crete, are among the most compelling and fascinating in all of Greek mythology. In those distant times a very thin line separated the great god or king from the ogreish monster, and thus the scholar is allowed a rare and fleeting glimpse of the origins and meaning of myth. The important myth of Talos illustrates these points with remarkable clarity.
Talos was a giant brazen monster, closely analogous to the Minotaur whose fiery grasp and ogreish appetite caused him to be deemed the Cretan Moloch.(34) Some mythographers make Talos the servant of Minos, while others have described him as the general of the Minoan army. Like the Minotaur, Talos was believed to be half man and half bull, hence his alternative name of Taurus. Under this form he was considered to be the father of the Minotaur.(35) Here Talos-Taurus replaces the white bull of Minos-Poseidon as progenitor of the Cretan monster. In light of these associations between the Minotaur and Talos, it is significant to find that the Greeks identified Talos with Kronos.(36)
Thus it would appear that the white bull of Minos was actually a tauriform Kronos-Saturn. Comparative mythology suggests the same thing with regard to the white bull of Menes-Min. Interestingly enough, the most famous myth of Minos' parentage, that which makes him the offspring of Zeus' rape of Europa, has Zeus taking the form of a "magnificent white bull".(37) This myth of Minos' birth is a close parallel to the birth of the Minotaur himself, thus suggesting the equating of Minos with his bull, the Minotaur.
Earlier in this essay I stated that a crucial clue to the identity of the Minotaur was his relation to Dionysus, a god whom scholars have traced to Crete. There, Dionysus was known as the Cretan Zeus.(38) In Crete, the great god had several revealing epithets. One of these was Asterius, which relates him to the Minotaur who, as already stated, also bore this name; another was Talaios, which identifies him as Talos.(39) If the Minotaur and Talos were originally patterned after the same celestial object, as I have suggested, it then follows that each should be equated with the planet Saturn, whether under the name of Kronos, Dionysus, or Cretan Zeus. Thus it would appear that the worship of the planet Saturn formed a fundamental feature of Cretan religion, a religion whose influence was felt far and wide throughout the ancient world. That influence can still be felt today: for like the bells of Poe's madness, the ring of Saturn continues to toll via the verses of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripedes.
Within the limited space of this essay, I have attempted to trace the origins of the major elements contained in the Classical myth of Minos and the Minotaur. (Due to consideration of space and theme, I have omitted discussion of Theseus and Ariadne.(40)) Moreover, I have shown that certain of these elements can best be understood by reference to beliefs and practices associated with the worship of the planet Saturn.
Through a brief analysis of the legends pertaining to Menes and Manu, I also attempted to trace the figure of Minos to Egypt and India. Had more space been available, other motifs could also have been broached. For example, I would have suggested that Talbott's extensive analysis of the organization of Saturn's cosmos can most adequately account for Menes' reputation regarding the unification and fortification of Egypt.(41) The celestial precedents behind the worldwide association of Saturn with human sacrifice and the origin of religious rites - motifs which we have uncovered in the traditions of Minos, Menes, and Manu could also have been outlined. Finally the association of Menes and Min with husbandry and the origin of vegetation would also show Saturnian overtones.(41a)
Thirty-three years after the publication of Worlds in Collision, Velikovsky's challenge remains: "History will have to be rewritten." In Minos, Menes, and Manu, we have three prominent figures whom historians, both ancient and modern, have sought to render in flesh and blood.(42) This is perhaps understandable since these legendary figures are closely associated with the origins of human institutions: kingship, laws, religious observances, husbandry, etc.
Yet, as the words of James Frazer document, the very same deeds were attributed to Saturn:
How and why these traditions were associated with a planet now barely visible at a billion miles away has been masterfully outlined in Talbott's The Saturn Myth. In this essay I have concerned myself primarily with identifications.(44) Clearly, however, the labyrinthine surroundings of the Minotaur, Tlaloc, and Huwawa refer to Saturn's once brilliantly-visible ring system, and not to some imaginary process operating upon our present Sun. These labyrinthine gods and monsters, coupled with the labyrinthine megaliths and drawings which can be found all over the globe, form some of the most intriguing and important evidence in favor of the thesis of a once universally dominant Saturn.(45)
REFERENCES1. R. Graves, The Greek Myths, Vol. I (N.Y., 1960). Since the Minoan myths are scattered through this work, the reader should check the index under the appropriate entries. Sometimes, the accounts indicate that seven youths and seven maidens were sacrificed.
2. A. B. Cook, Zeus: A Study in Ancient Religion, Vol. I (London, 1964), pp. 490491.
3. Re Asterius see R. Graves, op. cit., p. 345; re the labyrinth see A. B. Cook, op. cit., p. 476.
3a. See P. Kerenyi, Dionysos (Princeton, 1976), p . 117.
4. R. Graves, op. cit., p. 340.
5. L. R. Farnell, The Cults of the Greek States, Vol. III (New Rochelle, 1977), p. 97.
5a. Firmicus Maternus, De Erroribus, VI:5.
6. J. Spanuth, Atlantis of the North (Copenhagen, 1979), pp. 94-113.
7. L. R. Farnell, op. cit., p. 26.
8. R. Graves, op. cit., p. 310.
9. D. Talbott, The Saturn Myth (N.Y., 1980), pp. 260-265.
10. Diodorus, Osiris and Isis (Cambridge, 1957), p. 211.
11. Henri Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods (Chicago, 1948), p. 15.
12. Diodorus, op. cit., p. 159.
13. Herodotus, Historiae, 2:8.
14. H. Frankfort, op. cit., pp. 188-190.
15. H. W. Fairman, Myth, Rituals and Kingship, ed. by S. H. Hooke (Oxford,1958), p.85.
16. R. Graves, op. cit., p.347; For Dionysus as Men, see R. Briffault, The Mothers (N.Y.,1927), p. 143. The Men epithet probably reflects Dionysus' identification with the Phrygian god Men.
17. M. William, Sanskrit Dictionary (Oxford, 1872), p. 743.
19. D. Talbott, op cit., p. 32. That Manu is to be identified with the pagan god Saturn was noticed in the 19th century by Sir William Jones and G. S. Faber.
20. J. Grimm, Teutonic Mythology (N.Y., 1966), Vol. 1, p. 249.
21. G. S. Faber, The Origins of Pagan Idolatry (London, 1816), Vol. I, p. 406.
21a. I am indebted to David Talbott for the information on Manabozho, a legendary figure, best known as Hiawatha.
22. R. Graves, op. cit., p. 345.
23. A. B. Cook, Vol. II, p.548. That the double-axe will trace to the band which surrounded Saturn will be shown in a forthcoming paper by the author and David Talbott.
24. J. Bord, Mazes and Labyrinths of the World (London, 1976).
25. S. Langdon, Semitic Mythology (Boston, 1931). 26. Ibid., p. 253.
27. G. de Santillana and H. von Dechend, Hamlet's Mill: An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time (Boston, 1977), p. 290.
28. H. B. Alexander, Latin American Mythology (Boston, 1920), p. 72.
28a. A. Hislop, The Two Babylons (Neptune, N.J., 1959), p. 232; Alexander, Ibid.
29. F. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (London,1973), p. 26.
30. R. Graves, op. cit., p. 340.
31.Porphyry, On Abstinence, 2 :56; see also the discussion in Farnell, Vol. I, pp. 28-29.
32. D. Talbott, op. cit., p. 162. 33. R. Graves, op. cit., p. 294.
34. L. R. Farnell, op. cit., 1, pp. 28-29. 35. R. Graves, op. cit., p. 317.
36. A. B. Cook, op. cit., p. 722. 37. R. Graves, op. cit., p. 194.
38. P. Kerenyi, op. cit., pp.86-87. 39. L. R. Farnell, op. cit., I, p. 44.
40. Theseus and Ariadne will be dealt with in a forthcoming article in collaboration with D. Talbott.
41. D. Talbott, op. cit., pp.90-119.
41a. I. Velikovsky, Mankind in Amnesia (N.Y ., 1982), pp. 98-99.
42. Velikovsky, himself, I would suggest, fell into the same trap on several occasions, most notably in his treatment of Theban Kadmos and his famous lineage. Essays on Kadmos and Oedipus by this writer remain temporarily unpublished. Suffice it here to say that I regard Kadmos as one of the clearest Saturnian heroes in all of Greek mythology while his wife, Harmonia, is none other than Athena-Venus herself.
43. J. G. Frazer, The Golden Bough (London,1913), pp. 306-307.
44. The Saturnian cosmos was the subject of this writer's Master's thesis on Velikovsky. The subject is also treated in further manuscripts waiting to be published.
45. For some impressive examples see J. Bord, op. cit., passim.
This terra-cotta mask shows the unlovely face of Humbaba/Huwawa, the guardian of the cedar felled by Gilgamesh and Enkidu. The title of "God of the fortess of intestines" is also given to him, and some scholars conclude from this title, as well as from the pictorial evidence, that Humbaba was the inhabitant and lord of the labyrinth, a predecessor of Minotaurus.
As revolting as the face of Humbaba are the features of Tlaloc, the so-called "rain-god" of Mexico. They are revealing, however: constructing out of two serpents, Tlaloc's head represents, as it were, the caduceus of Hermes/Mercury.