For a long time, I wondered what on Earth possessed the Minoans to paint women as white (not Caucasian-toned, but the color of a sheet of paper) and men as dark-dark red. After all, DNA evidence shows that, like their ancestors in Neolithic Anatolia, the Minoans all had skin in various shades of brown. So why the weirdness in the art, like the Bull Leaper fresco above?

Then I began to learn about Mediterranean folk dance. Dance ethnography isn't a subject I ever really thought about before, to be honest. Then a talented dance ethnographer began to share her insights with us, and a lot of things began to make sense. (Check out her book The Ancient and Martial Dances for some fascinating info.)

It turns out, folk dance does an amazing job of preserving symbolism for generations, centuries, ages. There's a lot of pressure to keep it the same, to avoid change. Dance ethnography traces a number of traditions and symbol sets back through classical times and even into the Bronze Age. One bit of symbolism that's preserved in Mediterranean folk dance is the color pairing of red and white. Gee, where have I seen that before?

The color pairing is associated with a pair of folkloric figures who, a long time ago, were gods. Or more specifically, a goddess and her divine son. The goddess is the Grain Mother, the provider of food from the beginning of agriculture onward. Her color is white, the color of the grain and the flour we make from it. In the Minoan pantheon, the Grain Mother is the goddess Rhea - who happens also to be the Earth Mother, the Earth from which the grain grows.

Her son is known as the Red Champion in the folkloric dances. We're still exploring who, exactly, he is and how he fits into the Modern Minoan pantheon. He's not the same as Dionysus or the Minotaur, that much we know. The color red comes from the clay, the body of the Earth Mother from whom he is born (alongside the grain). The contents and symbolism of the folk dances suggest that, like Dionysus and the Minotaur, the Red Champion is a shamanic god. When we've figured out a little more about him, I'll share it here.

But now we know why the Minoans painted women white and men red. It's an artistic convention that points to the Grain Mother and her son the Red Champion. It reminds us of their constant presence in our lives. But more than that, it reminds us that each and every one of us is a reflection of the divine on Earth. That's a good thing to remember when we're deciding how to treat each other, don't you think?

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.