Musings inspired by the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete on ancient Crete, the Goddesses of Crete, Societies of Peace, and the rebirth of the Goddess in contemporary culture, by Carol P. Christ, author of Rebirth of the Goddess.
The Turtle Goddess of Myrtos
This strange little Goddess found on an altar in the early Minoan village of Myrtos Fournou-Korifi, which was inhabited in the third millennium BCE. She is a pitcher Goddess holding a pitcher. Liquid can be poured on an altar from the jug she holds in her snakelike arms.
The long neck of the Goddess puzzled me until I saw turtles stretching their necks in the pools at the archaeological site of Kato Zakros in Crete. When one of the women on the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete suggested that the Goddess of Myrtos could be a Turtle Goddess, I immediately nodded my head.
The little turtles that are found in Greece in ponds and spring sources are incredibly curious: they swim over to “greet” visitors with their heads out of the water, pause to stare, and then as if to say “I’m scared now,” duck quickly back down into the water, only to emerge again.
The playfulness and interest in life of water turtles for me perfectly express the ancient Cretan sense of the grace and joy of life. I believe that the ancient Cretans understood that life is meant to be enjoyed and that they recognized that joy is not limited to human beings, but is shared throughout the web of life.
The turtle Goddess is not only a turrtle, however, because she has breasts and a sacred female triangle, stands upright, and holds a water pitcher. Over 700 pithers similar to the one held by the Turtle Goddess were found at Myrtos.
I suspect that turtles greeted the women of ancient Myrtos when they went to the water source to collect water in their jugs and that they viewed the turtles as spirit guardians of the spring. For people who viewed themselves as part of nature, it would be only a small step to imagine the Source of Life as a Turtle Goddess.
On the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete women leave stones from home on the ancient altar at Myrtos and return the Turtle Goddess (pictured top left) to her shrine during the ceremony.
Carol P. Christ is author of Rebirth of the Goddess and leads Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete every spring and fall. Space is still available on the spring tour.
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