Hawaii,6 March -2014 , Carrie O’Connor: Minoan snake goddess and feeling of “Witches” may be the old thoughts but still alive.I stood in a darkened Orthodox church almost 20 years ago while a small Cretan woman proclaimed this to a young priest in heavy, black Orthodox garb. The intense matriarch yelled in a shrill voice. The young man had no other choice than to force our all-woman tour group from the church.
At first, I stood frozen. A shadow of shame and self-recrimination fell over me. Then, I stole a glance at the prim woman and let out a deep, soulful laugh.
What was our crime? We, group members led by feminist theologian Carol P. Christ, Ph.D., had adorned a kernos—an ancient piece of pottery or stone to which are attached smaller bowls for offerings—with fruits and vegetables. The other Cretan tour guide had also witnessed this with disapproval. Little did she know that we had visited various island ancient ruins and not only left offerings but poured libations of wine, honey and water, as outlined in the Homeric Hymns. At the ruins of a temple, we boldly recited Sappho.
Years later, I would read Donna Tartt’s novel The Secret History. The character who led a bacchanalian ritual justifies his actions by saying, “… if someone is to read Dante, and understand him, one must become a Christian if only for a few hours. …” In other words, one must become a Greek to understand the ancient mind. Yet unlike Tartt’s murdering Greek ritualists, we peacefully invoked the feminine side of God, offering eggplants and grapes and drinking fabulous wine. Still, much like Tartt’s students of antiquity, there was no way the rituals would not transform us.
We all had our own reasons for participating in these rites, and joining the “goddess” tour.
Another site that affected me deeply was Knossos. I found the Bronze Age palace, reconstructed by English archaeologist Arthur Evans between 1905 and 1930, breathtaking. Ruins humble a person to the core. As I walked amid the stone steps, I imagined the proud, peaceful Minoans who walked those halls. I stared into the vivid frescos of women dancing and boys vaulting bulls.
Evans discovered the Minoan Snake Goddess in the temple repositories. Bare-breasted, this stern-faced goddess balances a cat on her head and extends strong arms that hold snakes. Many young feminists tell me that she represents strength. I have a small symbol from a snake goddess tattooed on my left breast; I needed to have an excisional biopsy there at 42. The tattoo next to the scar is a physical reminder that I participate in the dance of life, just like a snake goddess.
Recently, a mammography technician asked me the tattoo’s significance. I mumbled something quickly, in awkwardness. I wanted to dismiss my Crete experience and condescendingly say, “It’s all just woo woo. Superstitious nonsense.”
Yet, I can’t. Something happened in those dank caves, archeological sites, labyrinths and museums almost 20 years ago. This rational Unitarian was moved during these rituals in which we honored the divine feminine. I encountered the Divine not just in a revered image; I felt her within myself. Indeed, I understood for the first time Ntozake Shange’s words: “i found god in myself and i loved her, i loved her fiercely.” [ Input from msmagazine ]