In addition to the mother goddess and the young god, who were, as we have seen, the founding couple of the Minoan religion, the inhabitants of the island of Crete also venerated a multitude of other deities. They were very often associated with animals. Foremost among them were the bull, the serpent goddess, the bees and the butterflies.

The bull: god of life and fertility

The bull was the symbol of life force and fertility. Its representation, the horns of Consecration, was one of the most frequent symbols. They were installed on the benches and the altars. Consecration horns could be of any size, constructed from any type of material and they dated from all eras although most of them date from the Late Minoan period (1550 to 1100 BC) Evidence of the importance of the bull, it was extremely common to place a labrys between the Horns of Consecration, a hole was even provided for this purpose. One of the most notable specimens is the pair of horns from the double-axe altar at Knossos. Two pairs of horns, made of stucco were discovered there with idols. This major discovery confirmed the importance of the symbol. The objects present between the horns are very often double axes, but it can also be libation vases or branches. The branches depict a religious act. An engraved stone from the Cave of Zeus, or Cave of Ida, located in central Crete, shows a woman blowing into a seashell while standing in front of a pair of horns with branches. This relationship between the horns of Consecration and the sacred branches could explain why the horns are transformed into plant motifs on two engraved stones exhibited in the British Museum.


The serpent goddess: trance, medicine and immortality

The Serpent Goddess, or the depiction of priestesses holding serpents, was also very important in Minoan religion. This was demonstrated by the abundance of snake figurines, women or goddesses holding snakes. Divine representations being normally prohibited, the statuettes of “snake goddesses” are a fairly late appearance, probably of oriental origin (around 1600 BC). The important symbolism of the serpent derives from its ability to change its skin. This fascinated the Minoans by the characteristic of regeneration that it induced. The ancient Mesopotamians and Semites even believed that snakes were immortal, because they could shed infinitely and always look young. It is assumed that the Minoans thought the same. But the serpent had another property indispensable to the Cretans, its venom. This was already, at the time, used for medicinal purposes. But he also had another usefulness and not the least, that of being able to link them to the gods. The Minoans, to enter a trance, allowed themselves to be bitten by the snakes during specific rites and they connected, they thought, while delirious under the effect of the poison directly with the gods.

The bee and the butterfly, a singular representation of death

The Cretans were beekeepers and used a lot of honey, in their food, for medicine, for the libation of offerings or to prepare mead. Bees are also responsible for pollination. This probably explains why the bee and the hive were important in Minoan culture. the Bee-Goddess was often depicted as half-woman, half-bee. His sacred snakes coiled around the beehives. The beehive was a popular architectural form during the Bronze Age in Crete. The tombs were strongly inspired by it. Similarly, ruins of beehive-shaped silos have been found. Even today, the beehive is a standard form for storage huts in modern Crete. Another Minoan belief regarding death, according to Marija Gimbutas, a Lithuanian-American archaeologist, the famous labrys itself was actually a symbol of the Butterfly Goddess. The insect represented, according to her, for the Minoans the various stages of the cycle of life. Indeed, the larva of this moulting and flying animal represented in fact the cycle of the soul whose death was in fact only the moulting of the soul leaving its envelope before flying away. Placing the Labrys on the Horns of Consecration could therefore in fact be a ritual act summarizing the whole of human life.