Bronze Age Mediterranean: Minoan Culture
16th—17th century BC, Minoan culture: Crete and the southern Aegean.
Two well-known Minoan figurines of a Snake Goddess were found buried near the Central Court of the Palace of Knossos, on Crete, dating to the second millennium BC.
'This figurine is probably about thirty-six centuries old,' said Quintin. 'From the Minoan civilisation of ancient Crete; she was discovered amongst a store of temple objects that Sir Arthur Evans found when he excavated the west side of the Palace of Minos at the turn of the twentieth century. She was probably made before 1600 BC. A goddess with snakes writhing and twisting around her arms and her body and her neck.'
'And this other one is probably the most famous image of all from the Minoan era,' he continued. 'She was found buried in the same place, in a stone-lined cyst near a shrine that overlooked the west side of the Central Court. A lady holding a snake in each hand and waving them in the air.
'Big girl, wasn't she,' said Miranda, peering at the photograph. 'But some people think that the Palace of Minos was used as a mauseleum, like the ancient Labyrinth in Egypt. If snakes represented death, it is easy to understand why: because they shed their skins and renew themselves without the inconvenience of having to die first. That would make them a symbol of hope, a hope of renewal. It would explain why Celtic warriors liked to have their swords and scabbards decorated with snakes and dragons, biting their tails in a circular dance of death and renewal. Seems quite fitting for people who believed in reincarnation.
'But why, then, would medieval knight heroes want to kill dragons?' objected Quintin.
'Being a good Christian means destroying pagan things?' suggested Miranda.
'Or better still,' she said, 'letting people believe that that's what it is, but really showing that by destroying a dragon, you are vanquishing death. Look at the beautiful land that Eric the Traveller comes to when he dares to enter the mouth of a dragon. Look at the pool of everlasting renewal that the Red Cross Knight falls into when he fights his dragon.'