MYTHS OF CRETE & PRE-HELLENIC EUROPE
By DONALD A. MACKENZIE
THE GRESHAM PUBLISHING COMPANY LIMITED
66 CHANDOS STREET COVENT GARDEN LONDON
Ancient Peoples of the Goddess Cult
Crete and Palæolithic Man--Traces in Malta, Egypt, Palestine, and Phoenicia--Links between Palæolithic and Neolithic Ages--Azilian Culture in France, Denmark, and Britain--Evidence of Geology and Folk--tales--Palæolithic Types in Modern England--Coming of Neolithic Man of Mediterranean Race--The Cretan Snake--goddess, Dove--goddess, and "Lady of Wild Creatures"--The "Mother" of Crete--Identified with Rhea--Primitive Goddesses as Destroyers--Black Annis of England and Black Kali of India--The Black, Green, and Yellow Demeter (Ceres)--The Green Neith of Libya--Babylonian Labartu and Black Scoto-Irish Hag--The "Terrible" Sekhet of Egypt--Tree and Mountain Worship--Oak and Maypole and "Swain Motes"--Earth Oaths in Greece and Scotland--The Greek Gæia--Cailleach and Artemis--Wind Hags--Goddess Cult and Status of Women--Process of Myth-making.
No Palæolithic skulls have been yet discovered in Crete, although traces have been forthcoming of an early stage of culture not unlike the Azilian. As the island was at one time connected with the mainland, it may be that the bones of the early races and the animals associated with them lie buried in the Ægean Sea, which, during the Inter-glacial periods, was a broad plain watered by noble rivers and covered by dense forests. The extensive land depression along the North African coast has similarly hidden from us the secrets of prehistoric Libya.
In Malta, where ancient sites favoured by man Were liable to less disturbance by builders than in Crete, skulls of the middle Palæolithic periods have been discovered. There are eleven specimens from Hal Saflieni in the Valetta museum. Some are of mixed types, but two have distinct Mousterian characteristics and especially the protruding brow ridges which distinguished the men of the Third Glacial Period.
One skull from Hagiar Kim has negroid traits and appears to link with those found in the Grimaldi cave near Mentone. As has been stated, steatopygous figures have been taken from Neolithic Maltese graves and sanctuaries, a sure indication that the Aurignacian proto-Bushmen were known to the early settlers of the Mediterranean race. Some of these figures are nude and others wear the flounced gown usually called "Cretan", and it is of interest to note here that they are associated among burial relics with perforated axe amulets of polished stone. No Cro-Magnon skulls have been discovered in Malta, but some race quite as tall must have mingled there with the early Neolithic folk. A male skeleton found at Santa Verna measures 5 feet 9 inches in length. "The man was of a noble type," writes an excavator; "he must have stood 6 feet high, his skull is massive and shapely, the jaws and teeth are even and regular, and the limbs powerful." 1 The Mediterranean Neolithic man was of slight build and medium stature.
The earliest Cretans were of the Mediterranean racial type, but among them were alien broad-heads. Ere the Neolithic folks settled on the island they came into contact, apparently, with mountaineers from the north, or descendants of Palæolithic races. Steatopygous figurines have been found in Cretan Neolithic strata.
In Egypt there was no hiatus between the Palæolithic and Neolithic Ages. Not only have steatopygous figurines been found in pre-Dynastic Egyptian and Nubian graves, but also flints which show that the artifacts of the later period were developed from those of the earlier. A reference to the "Smiting of the Troglodytes" on the Palermo stone of the First Dynasty may refer to descendants of the Palæolithic cave-dwellers.
Palestine, the high road from Egypt into eastern Europe, has yielded numerous relics of the early stages of culture. Chellean and Acheulian flints "have been picked up on the maritime plain, in yet greater numbers on the plateau south of Jerusalem, and in considerable quantities in the region to the south of Amman, east of Jordan. Some have also been discovered far to the south, in the region of Petra." Professor Macalister, from whom we quote, notes that "Palæolithic man in Palestine missed, however, the higher developments attained by his brother in France". Mousterian cave-settlements in Phoenicia have yielded characteristic flints and bone instruments, including needles. Dr. Max Blanckenhorn has assigned the date 10,000 B.C. to the earliest Neolithic settlement in this region. Sherds of pottery have been discovered in the Phnician cave of Harajel "side by side with the bones of extinct fauna, especially the woolly rhinoceros". In the natural Gezer caves of a later age finds have been made of "rude pottery, ornamented with coarse moulding or roughly painted red lines; flint flakes, knives and scrapers; millstones; rounded stone pebbles, that could be used for a variety of purposes-hearth stones; heating stones; missiles; polishers.", and "an amulet or two of bone or slate, perforated for suspension". 2
In France the most remarkable link between the Palæolithic and later ages is formed by the Cro-Magnon racial type which first appeared in the Dordogne valley in the Aurignacian Period, before the Fourth Glacial Epoch. The "most curious and significant trait" of these people is that they have long heads and broad faces: that is, they have skulls with Mediterranean characteristics and faces which resemble those of the broad-headed Armenoids of the mountains. Summarizing the evidence of Dr. Collignon regarding the present-day inhabitants of the Dordogne valley, Professor Ripley says: "The people we have described above agree in physical characteristics with but one other type of men known to anthropologists. This is the celebrated Cro-Magnon race, long ago identified by archæologists as having inhabited the south-west of Europe in prehistoric times." Varieties of the type have occurred owing to the proximity of other races, but it is still common and easily detected. Individuals with the Cro-Magnon skull and "disharmonic face" are also found among present-day Berbers. 3 Skeletons of Cro-Magnon man of the Palæolithic Period have been found as far north as Belgium. Dr. Schliz finds traces at the present time of Cro-Magnon man throughout western Europe, and believes that even the Neanderthal-Spy (Mousterian) type has also left a slight but recognizable impress. 4 The high average stature and weight of the Scottish people, which has long puzzled ethnologists, may be due to a strong Palæolithic intermixture in early Neolithic times. The evidence obtained from the Glasgow graveyard, referred to in the Introduction, is suggestive in this connection.
Interesting evidence has been forthcoming at Mas d'Azil, in France, of the transition period between the late Palæolithic and early Neolithic culture. This stage of culture is called Azilian. It was of long continuance. Artifacts called "Azilian" found in Scotland may have been separated by a considerable period of time from those discovered at Mas d'Azil. Cro-Magnon and Magdalenian men lived through and survived the Fourth Glacial Epoch. Then during the subsequent period of minor oscillations of climate the reindeer and other animals of the chase migrated northwards. These were followed, it would appear, by the huntsmen, a proportion of whom, however, remained behind and adopted new habits of life. As the Cro-Magnon folks of the Dordogne valley had domesticated animals, they no doubt found the struggle for existence in the homeland less arduous than their contemporaries, the small men of Magdalenian culture, who were hunters and fishermen and naught else.
Subsequent to the Fourth Glacial Period there was a re-elevation of land, and the Magdalenian wanderers were able to walk over the bed of the English Channel. The reindeer entered the British Isles also and survived in Scotland until the Middle Ages. A deer-horn implement, carved with a scene of the chase, which was picked up on the slopes of Ben Wyvis, was shown to the writer shortly after it was discovered. It lay for several years in the vestibule of a Dingwall hotel, but unfortunately has gone amissing. It appears to have been a relic of Palæolithic culture of the late period which must be assigned to it in northern Highlands. The carving had Magdalenian characteristics.
Professor James Geikie shows that after the Fourth Glacial Epoch genial conditions prevailed in Scotland. This is the period of the great forests, relics of which are embedded in peat mosses. He terms it "Lower Forestian". A cold period followed and glaciers once again descended from the mountains, and some of these were not melted before they touched the sea. The forests decayed and the peat formed above the great trees which perished as each succeeding winter grew colder and each succeeding summer shorter and wetter. Meanwhile the land sunk and the sea washed round the 45 to 50 feet beaches. Another Inter-glacial Period followed, during which the forests again flourished. It constitutes Geikie's "Upper Forestian" Epoch. The last, or sixth, Glacial Period followed, with its small and local glaciers, during which the land sunk again, and the later peat beds covered great fallen trees. Thereafter the present Age was inaugurated by the raising of the land to more or less its present level with a gradual improvement of the climate.
Traces of man in the Azillan stage of culture have been found in Scotland. 5 The MacArthur cave, which overlooks Oban, was inhabited when the sea was 30 feet above its present level, and the Highland troglodytes--the earliest visitors--who were hunters and fishermen, left behind bone and horn implements, including the Azilian harpoon invented during the Magdalenian stage of culture of the Fourth Glacial Epoch in southern France. At Stirling harpoons of the same type were utilized at a period when whales spouted not far from the castle rock. Of late an interesting cave-dwelling, excavated at Rosemarkie in the Black Isle, has yielded a variety of bone and other implements, and human remains. A large fire-place, with upright smoke-blackened stones and surrounded by a cobbled floor, was laid bare. The cave is situated about 15 feet above the present sea-level.
Associated with these caves and other early settlements, chiefly on the ridges of the old coast-lines, are heaps of shells. These have been found as far north as Caithness. 6
Those early settlers, of the "river-bed" race, are believed to be of the same mixed stock, surviving from Palæolithic times, as the famous "beach-combers" of the Danish "kitchen middens". When the earliest Mediterranean racial pioneers of the Neolithic Age entered these islands, they met and mingled with the troglodytes who are referred to in Gaelic folk-tales. 7
"It may quite well be", says Professor James Geikie, that Neolithic man appeared in southern Europe before Palæolithic man had vanished from the Pyrenean region, and the two races may possibly have here come into contact." Most archæologists have abandoned the old hiatus theory. Dr. Robert Munro argues, after reviewing the latest evidence, that in Europe there was "no break in the continuity of human occupation from late Palæolithic to Neolithic times", and accepts Dr. Keith's view that "Palæolithic blood is as rife in the British people of today as in those of the European continent". 8 Dr. Keith finds everywhere in England numerous representatives of the "river-bed" Palæolithic folks.
The Neolithic folks, who came into contact with the remnants of the Palæolithic races in various parts of Europe, were representatives of the widespread Mediterranean or Brown Race. They were men of medium stature, with long heads and high but narrow foreheads, refined faces, dark eyes and hair, and slim bodies. Their brunette complexions suggest that their area of characterization was on the North African coast. Some ethnologists incline to the view that the homeland of this stock was Somaliland, the Punt of the Egyptian records, which, like Arabia, favoured the production of a larger population than it was capable of sustaining permanently. In Egypt they adopted the agricultural mode of life long before the dawn of history. Periodic folk-waves, drifting westward and east, entered Europe across the Straits of Gibraltar and through Palestine and Asia Minor by the coast-line route. In the process of time they overspread southern, central, and western Europe, and entered the British Isles. Probably they crossed over to Ireland from Scotland. Their burial customs indicate that their religious beliefs were well developed prior to the period of "folk-wandering". The Neolithic graves in Europe and Africa are constructed on similar lines, and the great majority of the skeletons they contain are remarkable for their uniformity of type. "So striking", writes Professor Elliot Smith, "is the family likeness between the early Neolithic peoples of the British Isles and the Mediterranean and the bulk of the population, both ancient and modern, of Egypt and East Africa, that the description of the bones of an Early Briton of that remote epoch might apply in all essential details to an inhabitant of Somaliland." 9
It is not necessary to assume that they waged a war of extermination against the Palæolithic huntsmen and fishermen of Europe, so as to account for their ultimate superiority of numbers. Their pastoral and agricultural mode of life made it possible for them to live in larger communities and prosper in smaller areas than the Palæolithic huntsman, whose activities had necessarily to extend over wide stretches of country. At any rate, they never overcame the Dordogne valley men of Cro-Magnon type. It is possible that in districts in western Europe, as well as in the British Isles, the Neolithic and late Palæolithic peoples formed mixed communities.
THE SNAKE GODDESS OF CRETE
From the painting by John Duncan, A.R.S.A.
Dr. Robert Munro suggests that the latter became the servants and "clodhoppers" of the agriculturists.
The Neolithic, like the late Palæolithic peoples, were goddess-worshippers. They believed that the "Great Mother" had given origin to the world, the gods, the demons, and the races of mankind. In the various countries in which early Neolithic civilization was developed traces still survive of this early belief, and it will be found that the conception of the "Great Mother" is as varied as were the degrees of culture attained by the separated communities of common stock. Primitive ideas appear to have persisted longer in isolated districts where ethnic disturbances were least frequent and habits of life less liable to undergo change.
In Crete there were three outstanding forms of the mother-goddess-the snake-goddess, the dove-goddess, and the "lady of wild creatures". These may have been different forms of an original deity, or representative of a group composed of mother and daughters. As in Egypt and Babylonia, it is found that the one goddess tends to absorb the attributes of the other. It is possible that the Mother was supposed to manifest herself in different forms, at different seasons, and in different districts, and that one of the results of local ritualistic development was to emphasize a particular form of the original deity. But there can be no doubt that the conception of the Mother was an essential part of the Cretan faith.
The great goddess was depicted wearing a flounced gown suspended from her slim waist, round which a girdle is clasped (Chapter VI). The upper part of the body is bare, and she has enormous breasts. Sometimes she stands on a mountain top, guarded by two great lions, and sometimes she is seated beside trees or plants. In addition to the lions, her wild animals include the wild goat, the horned sheep, the bull, the red deer, the snake, and the dove; and among the symbols associated with her are the horns of the bull, the double axe, the sacred pillar, the moon crescent, and a staff or wand. She was apparently a goddess of death, battle, fertility, and the chase. Offerings were made to her in a mountain-cave she was supposed to inhabit.
It must be recognized at the outset that this ancient deity, like others of her kind, was not necessarily an attractive personality. Our conception of her must not be based solely on Greek sculpture, for instance. She is believed to be identical with Rhea, the mother of Vesta, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus, and that deity was depicted by Phidias as a benign mother of great dignity and tenderness and beauty. The original mother was worshipped and propitiated because she was feared. She was the Fate who measured the lives of men, who sent disasters as well as blessings, and was associated with lions and snakes as well as doves and deer. Withal, she was a voluptuous wanton. Like the Babylonian Ishtar, who was the lover of Gilgamish in one hour and his unrelenting enemy in the next, she was fickle and changeable as the wind and the seasons. She gloried with callous heart in her power to destroy, and was untouched by tender emotions for mankind, when--
Looking over wasted lands,
Blight and famine, plague and earthquake, roaring deeps and fiery sands,
Clanging fights, and flaming towns, and sinking ships and praying hands.
Greek mythology, in which the beliefs of various ethnic elements were fused, and savage traditions were ultimately transformed by philosophic speculations, survives to us mainly as the product of a cultured Age. But the poets and artists did not divest it wholly of its primitive traits. it is now generally recognized that the savagery of Cronus is not mere symbolism, or the wrath of Artemis, who required the sacrifice of a beautiful maiden, simply a myth based on natural phenomena and not a reflection of "old unhappy far-off things"--a reminiscence of primitive rites performed to propitiate a bloodthirsty deity.
In those parts of ancient Europe in which ancient rites were perpetuated till a comparatively late period the worship of pagan deities was a gloomy memory. The Irish Cromm Cruaich put prostrated hosts under "deadly disgrace" before his golden image--
To him without glory
They would kill their piteous, wretched offspring,
With much wailing and peril,
To pour their blood around Cromm Cruaich.
Milk and corn
They would ask from him speedily
In return for one-third of their healthy issue:
Great was the horror and the scare of him. 10
The mother-goddess of ancient Europe was similarly remembered as a devourer of children. She survives in English folk-lore as a fierce demon. In Leicestershire she is Black Annis, who is associated with the Easter "hare hunt", and has a "cat Anna" form. The earliest reference to her appears in the following extract from an eighteenth-century title-deed: "All that close or parcel of land commonly called or known by the name 'Black Anny's Bower Close'."
It must not be assumed, however, that Black Annis was a comparatively recent importation. She appears to be of as great antiquity as the customs associated with her name. It is impossible to limit the age of these and other customs and beliefs which survive to the present day, not only in rural districts, but even in cities and among the cultured classes, after so many centuries of Christian teaching. If they have persisted so long, in spite of the combined influences of Church, printing-press, and school, like rank weeds among flowers, for how long a period, it may be asked, did they flourish before they were condemned and shown to be unworthy of civilized communities? There can be little doubt that some have been inherited from the earliest settlers in these islands, who brought from the Continent in one of the Inter-glacial Epochs, and again in the Late Stone Age, the prototypes of the charms like the lucky pigs which now dangle from watch-chains and the mascots that figure on motor-cars and aeroplanes as they once figured on coracles, and boats hollowed from trunks of trees.
It is not to be marvelled at that the ancient goddess should be remembered in Leicester district. The city's name is fragrant with ancient memories. It was called after Llyr, the British sea-god, 11 who became the King Lear of the legend on which one of Shakespeare's great dramas was based. "He (King Lear) it was", wrote Geoffrey of Monmouth in the twelfth century, "that builded the city on the River Soar, that in the British is called Kaerleir, but in the Saxon Leicester (Leirchester)." 12
Black Annis Bower was a cave upon the Dane Hills, 13 which, during the past century, became filled up with earth. Over the cave grew an oak-tree, in the branches of which the bag was wont to conceal herself so that she might pounce out unawares and seize human victims, especially children. A local poet has immortalized the hag and her cave:
An oak, the pride of all the mossy dell,
Spreads its broad arms above the stony cell;
And many a bush, with hostile thorns arrayed,
Forbids the secret cavern to invade.
Here Black Annis "held her solitary reign, the dread and wonder of the neighbouring plain". Shepherds attributed to her the loss of lambs, and mothers their loss of children. According to a local writer, the children of a past generation "who went to run on Dane Hills were assured that Black Anna lay in wait there to snatch them away to her 'bower'."
"Oft the gaunt maid the frantic mother cursed",
sang the poet, who has left the following interesting description of the hag:--
'T is said the soul of mortal man recoiled
To view Black Annis' eye, so fierce and wild.
Vast talons, foul with human flesh, there grew
In place of hands, and features livid blue
Glar'd in her visage; whilst the obscene waist
Warm skins of human victims close embraced. 14
She appears to be identical with the "Yellow Muilearteach" of Gaelic legend:
Her face was blue black of the lustre of coal,
And her bone-tufted tooth was like red rust.
In her head was one deep pool-like eye
Swifter than a star in a winter sky. 15
Another description of her runs:
The name of the dauntless spectre
Was the bald-red, white-maned Muilearteach.
Her face was dark-grey of the hue of coals,
The teeth of her jaw were slanting red;
There was one flabby eye in her head
That quicker moved than lure pursuing mackerel.
Her head bristled dark and grey,
Like scrubwood before hoar-frost.
But the Scoto-Irish hag did not wear "warm skins of human victims".
The embroidered skirt that was round her body;
They took the apple from the wretch.
She had also a "girdle" like Aphrodite. 16 In India there is a ferocious goddess, who resembles Annis of Leicester. This is Black Kali. She is usually depicted dancing the "dance of fertility", like the Aurignacian and Bushman deities. Modern artists have given her normal eyes, but have retained also the primitive forehead eye. She wears a necklace of human or giant heads, and from her girdle dangle the hands and skins of victims. It would appear that Kali, whose body was smeared with the sacrificial blood, was a form of the earth-goddess; her harvest form was Jagadgauri, the yellow woman; while as the love and fertility deity she was the beautiful Lakshmi or Sri, she was Durga as the goddess of war. 17 The Greek goddess Demeter was black at Phigalia (Chapter VIII), but the ancient black statue of her was only a memory in the days of Pausanias. No doubt the rites associated with her worship were abandoned when "old times had gone and manners changed". Still the memory of Black Demeter survived as the mother of Persephone, the young corn-goddess. The "Green Demeter" was the green corn, and the "yellow Demeter" the ripened harvest grain. As the Roman Ceres her name is perpetuated in cereals--the gifts of the goddess. 18
The Libyan goddess Neith was depicted with a green face. Her symbols included the "shuttle" or thunderbolt, the bow and arrows of deities of fertility, lightning, rain, and war. In Babylonia, where the demoniac forms of gods and goddesses were perpetuated in metrical charms and incantations, the "Labartu" (Sumerian "Dimme") was a female demon. She resembled the English Annis and the Scoto-Irish Muilearteach. This primitive goddess haunted mountain and marsh, and devoured stray children who were not protected against her by wearing magical charms attached to neck-cords. The Egyptian Sekhet-Hathor was similarly a destroyer. In her primitive lion-headed Sekhet form, crowned with the solar disk and uræus serpent, she was sometimes depicted with a naked dagger grasped tightly in her right hand, and sometimes with a magic wand. Isis-Hathor, who personified all the goddesses of Egypt in late times, is referred to significantly in a Philae text as follows:--
Kindly is she as Bast (the cat-goddess)
Terrible is she as Sekhet. 19
The association of the Cretan mother-goddess with trees and mountains will be dealt with more intimately in a later chapter. Here, however, it is of interest to note that the demoniac English deity, Black Annis, was a tree as well as a cave deity. Offerings of children were probably made to her in the archæological Hunting Period, as they were to the Irish Cromm Cruaich in the Agricultural Period in return for milk and corn. The oak in Leicestershire was reverenced as the habitation of the goddess. In Charnwood Forest the "copt oak" was a "trysting-place in olden time". It was long "a place of assembly. . . . Swain motes (courts for the common people) were held for regulation of rights and claims on the forest." In the Highlands Gaelic-speaking people who attend a court at the present day refer to it as a "mote". Trials were conducted at these assemblies, and it is not surprising to find that near the Leicestershire "swain's hill" is situated "Hangman's Stone". "Royal Oak Day" (May 29th) is the "May Day" for Leicestershire children.
In early times the maypole, usually made of oak, was the symbol of authority and justice, as well as of fertility. "The column of May", suggests one writer on the subject, "was the great standard of justice in the Ey Commons, or Fields of May. Here it was that the people, if they saw cause, deposed or punished their governors, their barons, or their kings." When the maypole was brought from the forest the youths and maidens joined in singing songs, of which the chorus was: "We have brought the Summer home". 20 Scrimmages took place between youths who were attired to represent winter and spring. A seventeenth-century writer says that "a company of yonkers, on May-day morning, before day, went into the country to fetch home a maypole with drumme and trumpet, whereat the neighbouring inhabitants were affrighted, supposing some enemies had landed to sack them. The pole being thus brought home and set up, they began to drink healths about it till they could not stand so steady as the pole did." 21 The maypole customs and the "motes" held under oak-trees are evidently relics of tree-worship. Probably the human representative of the Cretan goddess, seated below her tree, dispensed justice and ushered in the season of fertility and growth, like the May Queen.
In Scotland., where there are "motes" also, it is found that certain "church lands" were anciently associated with magical and religious ceremonies. 22 Twisting paths leading to wells and hillocks remain as "rights of way". It is of interest to find, too, that the habit of swearing by the earth was also prevalent. In a Gaelic story it is related that when the heroes formed a compact to avenge insults and injuries suffered by one of their number they "lifted a little piece of earth and shouted 'Vengeance'". They thus effected a ceremonial connection with the Earth Mother. In Greece "the most current formula of the public oath, when a treaty was to be ratified or an alliance cemented, was", writes Dr. Farnell, "the invocation of Zeus, Helios, and Ge (the Earth Mother). "And doubtless", he adds, "one of the earliest forms of oath taken was some kind of primitive communion, whereby both parties place themselves in sacred contact with some divine force." 23
Ge or Gaia was a vague and ancient deity who was sometimes identified with the "earth snake". She was the mother of Titans, Cyclopes, and Hecatoncheires. Similarly the Scoto-Irish hag known as "Cailleach" (old wife), "Grey Eyebrows", "Muilearteach"., was mother of the giants (Fomorians) who had monstrous forms, and against whom gods and mortals waged war. A black lamb was offered to Gaia. The Cailleach was apparently offered the "black boar", or the "green boar", slain by the heroes of folk-tales.
As the Earth Mother was sworn by, she must have been conceived of as an active force, capable of assuming concrete form. Rhea, Demeter, Artemis, and other deities were probably forms or manifestations of her at various seasons.
The Cailleach, with blue-black face and roaring mouth, appears to have been recognized in her Muilearteach form as the spirit of tempest on sea and land. As the mountain-spirit of the Hunting Period she moved restlessly among the hills, followed by herds of wild animals, including deer, goats, and swine. In her right hand she grasped a "hammer", or "magic wand", like the gigantic Cretan goddess on her lion-supported mountain-peak. When standing-stones were struck with the "magic wand", they were immediately transformed into giant warriors, fully armed and ready for battle. After throwing away this, her symbol of fertility and authority, the Cailleach herself was transformed into a standing-stone "looking over the sea". She was also associated with rivers and lakes and overflowing wells.
This hag, who, according to one folk-tale, "existed from the long eternity of the world", was not only the mother of giants but also the ancestress of the various tribes of mankind. In Ireland she appears to have been the earlier Danu, the mother of the Danann gods and people, and Anu, the mountain-hag associated with "the Paps of Anu". As the "Old Woman of Beare" she had "seven periods of youth one after another", writes Professor Kuno Meyer, "so that every man who had lived with her came to die of old age, and her grandsons and great-grandsons were tribes and races". 24 In several stories she appears before a hero as a repulsive hag and suddenly transforms herself into a beautiful girl.
As the patroness of wild animals the Cailleach resembles Artemis, whom Browning, like certain of the Greek poets, idealized and consequently robbed of her primitive savage character.
I shed in Hell o'er my pale people peace,
On Earth, I, caring for the creatures, guard
Each pregnant yellow wolf and foxbitch sleek
And every feathered mother's callow brood,
And all that love green haunts and loneliness.
Artemis occasionally appeared in the form of a hare, a hind, or a bear. As a goddess of the chase she might be depicted seated on the back of a stag or standing with bow in hand beside a hill surmounted by a boar's head. Human sacrifices appear to have been offered to her, and myths were formed in the process of time to justify the substitution of wild animals for girls and lads. Spartan boys were flogged and sprinkled with blood at rites connected with Artemis worship. As a wind-goddess she demanded the sacrifice of Agamemnon's daughter when the fleet assembled at Aulis in Botia ready to sail against Troy. The Scoto-Irish Cailleach had similarly control over the winds, as had also the hags who "brewed breezes" on Jochgrimm mountain in Tyrol. Artemis haunted the mountains Erymanthus and Taygetus and the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia. It was in Crete that she was fabled to have slain the giant Orion because he loved her.
It will be seen that the idea of the mother-goddess prevailed in ancient times from India to Ireland and throughout Egypt. Although she was closely associated with the Mediterranean or Brown Race, which included the Neolithic Europeans, the proto-Egyptians, the Sumerians, Southern Persians, and Aryo-Indians, she was also a conspicuous figure in the Late Palæolithic Period. Long before the ideal types of her had evolved in Greece, she was a terror-inspiring conception among the common people. In isolated areas, which were untouched by Greek idealism, her memory was perpetuated as a repulsive and blood-thirsty hag who terrorized the people and demanded annual dues of human and animal victims. She was associated with the worship of stones, trees, wild animals, wells and rivers, mountains and mounds. As an earth-goddess she was a deity of death, destruction, fertility, and growth; hunters preyed on her flocks and had accordingly to propitiate her; pastoralists made offerings to her to secure the supply of grass, and the agricultural peoples recognized her as the mother of the corn-spirits, male and female. She reflected the culture of various stages of human development, and she assumed the character of the various communities who developed the ritual of her worship; she also mirrored the natural phenomena of the different countries in which she received recognition. Yet she was never wholly divested of her primitive traits. As in Aurignacian times, she remained as the Mother who was the ancestress of all and the source of good and evil, or luck and misfortune. In Crete she was well developed before the earliest island settlers began to carve her images on gems and seals or depict them in frescoes. She symbolized the island and its social life and organization. The Cretans, according to Plutarch, spoke of Crete as their motherland and not their fatherland.
As the mother-goddess in her various forms reflected the habits of life and the degree of civilization attained by her worshippers, it is possible also that the prominence given to the female principle in religious life caused women to be held in higher esteem than among the peoples of the god cult. Mr. J. R. Hall, in his Ancient History in the Far East, referring to the social status of the women in Crete, says that "it is certain they must have lived on a footing of greater equality with men than in any other ancient civilization. . . . We see in the frescoes of Knossos conclusive indications of an open and free association of men and women, corresponding to our idea of 'Society', at the Minoan Court, unparalleled till our own day." Cæsar remarked on the matriarchal conditions which prevailed in certain parts of ancient Britain. Among the Scottish Picts descent was reckoned by the female line, as in the royal families of Egypt and southern European states. It is possible that in Aurignacian times the women of the tribes similarly exercised considerable influence. They appear to have been prominent in the performance of magical and religious rites. Indeed, it is the opinion of some anthropologists, like Bachofen, that women exercised a greater influence than men in developing primitive religious ideas. "Wherever", he comments "gynæocracy meets us, the mystery of religion is bound up with it, and lends to motherhood an incorporation of some divinity." 25 The evidence gleaned from certain folktales suggests that women trained young huntsmen and warriors to perform feats of strength and skill. When the Irish Cuchullin visited Alban, to complete his military education, he was tested by an Amazon. Brynhild, of Iceland fame, like Brunhild of the Nibelungenlied, overcame many warriors ere she was won.
The comparative evidence dealt with in this chapter emphasizes the fact that in dealing with the Cretan and pre-Hellenic deities account must be taken of the primitive modes of thought which are traceable n the accumulated myths and legends attached to them. In the process of myth-making many influences were at work. Historical happenings had to be dealt with as well as the experiences of everyday life in a new environment. The growth of civilization changed the character of religious beliefs also. When old savage practices were abandoned, myths were framed to justify innovations, as when, for instance, the innocent girl Iphigenia was to be sacrificed to Artemis but was substituted by a stag. It was related that the goddess carried her off in a cloud and decided that she should become a priestess. The practice of offering up strangers in sacrifice obtained probably when a community began to abhor the idea of offering up one of its own members.
In the next chapter it will be shown how the study of ancient myths has led to the discovery of those traces of ancient civilization in Crete and the Ægean which has made it possible to reconstruct two thousand years of pre-Hellenic civilization.
1 Malta and the Mediterranean Race, R. N. Bradley, pp. 72 et seq.
2 History of Civilization in Palestine, pp. 9 et seq.
3 The Races of Europe, pp. 172 et seq.
4 Archiv für Anthropologie, Band 351 St. 239 et seq.
5 For earlier traces of Palæolithic man see The Stone Ages in North Britain and Ireland, by Rev. Frederick Smith (London & Glasgow, 1909). Dr. A. H. Keane calls the author the "Boucher de Perthes of Scotland".
6 Huxley & Laing's Prehistoric Remains in Caithness (London, 1886).
7 A cave-dweller in a Fingalian story is called Ciofach Mac a' Ghoill ("Ciofach, son of the stranger"). Another version refers to him as Ciuthach (pronounce "Kew'-ach"). Dealing with the legend of the Ciuthach, Professor W. J. Watson considers that he was a hero "of a different race from the Gael" (Celtic Review, January, 1914).
8 Prehistoric Britain, p. 234. (London, 1914 ).
9 The Ancient Egyptians, p. 58.
10 Celtic Myth and Legend, p. 39.
11 Celtic Myth and Legend, pp. 252 et seq.
12 "Kaer" and "Chester" signify cities. London was "Kaer-lud", called after the god Lud, whose name lingers also in "Ludgate".
13 It is suggested that "Dane" is a corruption of the Celtic "Danann".
14 County Folk-lore (Leicestershire and Rutland), by C. J. Billson, Vol. I., London, 1895 (Folk-lore Society's Publications).
15 Campbell's West Highland Tales, Vol. III, p. 138.
16 Waifs and Strays of Celtic Tradition, Vol. IV, pp. 142 et seq. (London, 1891).
17 Indian Myth and Legend, pp. xl. and 149-50.
18 Golden Bough ("Spirits of the Corn and the Wild"), Vol. I, pp. 35 et seq. (third edition).
19 Religion of the Ancient Egyptians, A. Wiedemann, p. 138 (London, 1897).
20 Quoted in County Folk-lore, Vol. I, pp. 29 et seq.
21 Brand's Antiquities, Vol. I, pp. 238 et seq.
22 According to Caesar, the Druids of Gaul held sessions at consecrated places of meeting which, from other sources, we learn were called nemeta. In old Irish the term appears as nemed, and in modern Scottish Gaelic it is neimhidh, which signifies "church land". The English rendering is Navity or Nevity.--Professor W. J. Watson in Celtic Review (1915), Vol. X, pp. 263 et seq.
23 Cults of the Greek States, Vol. III, p. 5.
24 Ancient Irish Poetry, p. 88.
25 Das Mutterrecht, p. xv.