When Women Ruled

Iraklion, Crete

Jan 11, 2023

All ancient civilizations without exception, had a mother goddess they worshipped. She was the supreme deity and sometimes the only deity. Unsurprisingly perhaps, women in these societies were not only revered, but frequently held superior positions in society. Cleopatra and Hatsepshut of Egypt are well known but their reign came much later around 70 BCE. Both had a predecessor in the lesser known Queen Kubaba of Sumer who reigned in 2400 BCE. It appears that the Minoans whose civilization peaked in 2000 BCE, were near contemporaries and they appear to have followed suit.

The beautifully detailed frescoes now housed in the Archeology Museum for the most part show women in positions of power – as priestesses, as goddesses, as women of high rank. They are shown accepting homage, participating in activities with other women in the majority of the paintings. And they are the ones shown as the goddesses – the ones descending from heaven in scenes of epiphany as well as the exquisite figurines of the Snake Goddesses.

They are the ones performing sacred rituals, they are the ones dancing to show reverence to the goddess, they are the ones shown vividly in a multitude of activities without any male figures present. It shows in the paintings on sarcophagi, in the designs on platters, in scenes on vases, cups and assorted pottery. Even the signet rings and the plethora of seals show women in prominent roles of priestesses, welcoming a descending goddess.

While it is true that there are some male figures – the Prince of Lillies or the Captain of the Blacks or the Captain’s report but these frescoes are few and far between. Superficial it might be to conclude that women held a superior position based on this, at the very least, they held an equal position. The beautiful Bull Leaping fresco is currently interpreted to show that both men and women participated equally, the white figures at either end being women while the leaper is male.

Imagine that. A world ruled by women. Perhaps it is time to get back to it. Past time.

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