Britomartis, the Great Goddess of Minoan Crete

Snake Goddess

Minoan Snake Goddess.

Britomartis was the Cretan labrys goddess of nature, hunters and fishermen. Worshipped as the Minoan moon-goddess of the mountains in Mycenaean times who represented the female spirit of nature. Britomartis was the name of the Great Goddess of life, death and resurrection. She is an archaic aspect of the Cretan goddess ‘Mother of the Mountains’ and Potnia the ‘mistress’. Cults of Britomartis were situated mainly in north-east Crete  with a festival at Olous. The Festival of Britomarpeia was held in her honour. There were temples to her at Athens, Sparta, Massalia, and Anticyra in Phocis. Britomartis in western Crete was primarily a goddess of local importance. In addition she was worshipped as Aphaea on the island of Aegina.

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Britomartis (1861).  E. W. Wyon.

In myth Minos fell in love with Britomartis and for nine months chased after her until she jumped into the sea to escape him. She was rescued by fishermen after falling into their fishing nets. Her later name Diktynna is from the Greek word diktyon meaning a ‘net’ or dyktyna meaning ‘hunting nets’. Diktyanna also means mountain nymph or an Oread. Britomartis was deified after the intervention of Artemis thus among those Minoan goddess figures who passed from Mycenean culture into Greek mythology.

Dyktynna

Statue of Dyktynna.  Public domain.

Britomartis survived as Dyktynna as Mount Dikte, the birthplace of Zeus. As a Mountain Mother she appeared with Gorgon-like features, and in Minoan art was portrayed with demonic features accompanied by feral animals. Depictions show her holding the double-axes of power, holding her symbols the divine snakes. Her sacred flower was the lily.

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06/03/2015 · 3:44 pm

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