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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in bull-leaping

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Bull Dance

Our Minnesota weather's been lushly Mediterranean of late, so naturally (such is the life of the wandering scholar) I've been thinking about bull-leaping.

I'm wondering if maybe—just maybe—the scholars have got it wrong.

Admittedly, my knowledge of the literature on the subject is not exhaustive. Still, on the basis of information available (to me, at any rate), I have the impression that much, if not most, current scholarship assumes that what we see depicted in Minoan art—what Mary Renault so charmingly calls the Bull Dance—is a sport, if perhaps a sport with religious overtones. Discussion tends to center on whether such a sport would actually have been physically possible or not.

I am given to understand that the scenes of bull-acrobatics that we see—on the golden ring-seal shown above, for example—are simply not possible; that bulls gore sideways rather than upwards, as the leaping scenes would imply. Contemporary athletes have been unable to duplicate the classical frontal bull-leap shown in Minoan art.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Dionysos, Bulls and Funerals

Over at Ariadne’s Tribe we’ve been developing a liturgy for modern Minoan Paganism – a yearly calendar of sacred events and their meanings, along with tidbits about the deities who are involved with each one. Throughout the year, Dionysos plays a big part in Minoan spirituality. In fact, he’s the most prominent god, to the point that the Greeks compared him to their Zeus. In addition to his well-known associations with wine, Dionysos also figures as the dying-and-reborn god of the solar year, an aspect that adds quite a few layers to his presence. Lately I’ve been thinking about how his different festivals and annual milestones dovetail together, and what that might mean in terms of some of the well-known bits of life in ancient Crete, bull-leaping in particular.

Before we dive into this subject, it’s important to realize that Minoan civilization, in the form we’re accustomed to think of it, lasted for a solid 15 centuries, from roughly 3000 to 1500 BCE. During that time, the religious practices of the island shifted and changed, from fairly simple ancestor-based activities all the way to an official state religion run by the big temples. Alongside the official religion, the people always had their own home-based practices, which echoed the state religion in some ways and diverged from it in others. But throughout this time, Dionysos played a prominent role.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Funny, I'd just written up a piece on bull-leaping myself. Must be something in the air.
  • Thesseli
    Thesseli says #
    Very nice!
Making Friends with a Bull: Power Over Nature Reconsidered

Scholars continue to imagine that bull-leaping games in ancient Crete must have been about power over and domination of a very dangerous animal. Watch this video of a woman with her bull friend and weep for their ignorance. 

"What seems to me even more significant are the ideas behind bull-leaping: the conception of the bull as an adversary, the need to prove superior human skill, the opposition between man and nature. . . If . . . the idea is that the bull is an adversary to be hunted or outwitted, as I have suggested, then it pertains to a domain which belongs exclusively to the male sphere." Nanno Marinatos, Minonan Religion

"As in Egyptian and Near Eastern bull cults, Minoan bull-leaping gave expression to the tension that underlies man's somewhat tenuous mastery of nature, reaffirmed each time human triumphs over animal. Not coincidentally such cults flourish in societies as they become increasingly stratified, as the affirmation of human prowess serves by analogy as an affirmation of social order." Jeremy McInerney, "Bulls and Bull-leaping in the Minoan World"

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Bull riding is a game that cowboys play at rodeos. A few years ago there was a champion rodeo bull who had a reputation as "never
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    I love your story.

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_bull-leaping-ring-before-2000-bc-phourni.jpg

 

Sometimes we think of Greek myth as a pre-patriarchal or less patriarchal alternative to the stories of the Bible. After all, Goddesses appear in Greek myths while they are nearly absent from the Bible. Right?

So far so good, but when we look more closely we can see that Greek myth enshrines patriarchal ideology just as surely as the Bible does.  We are so dazzled by the stories told by the Greeks that we designate them “the origin” of culture. We also have been taught that Greek myths contain “eternal archetypes” of the psyche. I hope the brief “deconstruction” of the myth of Ariadne which follows will begin to “deconstruct” these views as well. 

Ariadne is a pre-Greek word. The “ne” ending is not found in Greek. As the name is attributed to a princess in Greek myth, we might speculate that Ariadne could have been one of the names of the Goddess in ancient Crete. But in Greek myth Ariadne is cast in a drama in which she is a decidedly unattractive heroine. 

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  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    What is interesting to me is that myths that are so clearly anti-female as the ones about Pasiphae are not recognized as such, but
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    You have many good things to say, Carol. It would be nice sometimes if you could learn to say them without the inevitable misand
  • Aryós Héngwis
    Aryós Héngwis says #
    I don't read any misandry in "sometimes we think of Greek myth as a pre-patriarchal or less patriarchal alternative to the stories

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