240. Damaged Gods

i. zeus had the skies, he stormed, but his own acid tears burned him;

ii. poseidon ruled the seas, but he choked on his own turf;

iii. hades held the underground riches, but he was robbed, too quickly, too furiously;

iv. hera watched her kind fight, but they were beaten and bruised;

v. demeter sowed her crops, but her land died under her pupils’ harvest;

vi. hestia held the families, but they broke down one by one to drunken violence and narrow-minded views;

vii. athena blessed the creators, but the world moved on too fast and the blessed thought less and less;

viii. ares rallied the troops, but they mutinied and fell upon one another;

ix. aphrodite bestowed beauty, but she lost hold of the innermost kind;

x. hephaestus slaved away, but his quota was never met and the demands only soared;

xi. artemis held her ground, but her followers broke their vows and threw aside their chastity;

xii. apollo sang and healed, but his songs lost their touch and the diseases flew beyond his skill;

xiii. hermes sped on his winged sandals, but he was too slow to keep up with the world;

xiv. dionysus pressed his grapes, but his creations were overdosed on and he drank himself away


Role: Director, Editor, Videographer


Cherrystones - The New Jerusalem

Very excited to stumble upon these radio shows from Cherrystones while trying to track down last week’s Exotic Pylon show (also recommended).

When it comes to tunes, Cherrystones knowledge and selection is second to none. His enthusiasm for new and old sounds is contagious and these shows promise to be some heady listening.

Also, check out his equally mind-bending audio/video work as Jigoku


11x06 “Our Little World // 11x20 “don’t Call Me Shurley”
Cats and Dogs uhm Gods

I am probably the last person to realize this LOL, but when skipping through 11x06 “Our Little World” and this moment with Amara and the Cat Meme blog came around I just couldn’t not think of Chuck and his “Cat Pic Blog”. I mean, come on, no way we don’t think that Amara may have been looking at exactly her brother’s blog, right? And I just love how this captures beautifully the differences between him and her and her wonder and bafflement about these human things. Plus, I just really find the introduction of cats and cat metaphors vs. all of the dog metaphors that have been part of the show from the very beginning (and  the fact that since 9x05 “Dog dean Afternoon” we know dogs were put on earth for something special… dog and god… just saying) very interesting, because in a weird way one could take a lot from it. Cats unlike dogs for example can never be completely one hundred percent trained, they always remain their own “master” so to speak. And in that way too, I actually find it really interesting to see how dog/God/Chuck relates to cat/the Darkness/Amara. It certainly also fits to the whole gender aspect here with God and Darkness as the primoridal male and female. This is actually a really diverse and layered topic to think deeper about. These are just a few notions. Don’t have time to digg in deeper right now, but maybe I’ll add something another day. :)

Aegean Bronze Age Religion: Linear B and Offerings to the Theoi

When Linear B was first translated back in the 1950s, there were a lot of surprises in store. People hadn’t expected it to be Greek and they certainly hadn’t expected it to contain the names of deities that continued to be worshiped throughout the classical period. 

In total, we currently know of around 6000 Linear B tables, not including fragments on vases. Of these, around 4000 were found in the palace at Knossos where they were preserved thanks to a fire that baked the clay tablets and buried them. What were the tablets for? Well, they were administrative notes used to record where resources had been distributed, chariots might have been sent to another palace, for example, or food and slaves to a particular farm. However, some of the tablets record sacrifices being sent to various deities’ shrines, and that’s what we’re going to be looking at here.

The Names of the Gods
I’m going to split the named deities into two categories: those that are familiar and whose cults continued into the classical period, and those that are a bit more mysterious. 

The more familiar names are (parts within brackets to indicate how they are spelt in Mycenaean Greek):

  • Zeus (di-wo or di-we) “God of the Sky” attested in tablets from Knossos
  • Poseidon (po-se-da-o and also e-ne-si-de-o-ne “earth shaker”) attested in Knossos and Pylos. His name appears far more often than Zeus’, perhaps meaning he was the chief deity at the time. He also has a consort with a feminine version of his name po-se-de-ia (a possible early version of Amphrite)
  • Hera (e-ra) attested in Pylos
  • Ares (a-re) attested in Knossos
  • Hermes (e-me and e-ma-ha) attested in Pylos and Knossos
  • Dionysus (di-wo-nu-so) attested twice at Pylos, and at Chania
  • Apollo (as Phaean the physician of the gods, pa-ja-wo-ne) attested at Knossos
  • Artemis (a-te-mi-to and a-ti-mi-te)
  • Athena (a-ta-na-po-ti-ni-ja or Mistress of Athens) Knossos
  • The Furies/Erinys (e-ri-nu or e-ri-nu-we) Only recorded as singular noun, attested in three different tablets from Knossos
  • The Winds/Anemoi (a-ne-mo-i-je-ra-ja “Priestesses of the Winds”) Pylos

Some of the less familiar names are:

  • Potnia (po-ti-ni-ja) “Mistress” or “Lady”. She appears as a separate deity, but the word is also used as an epithet for other goddesses (as with Athena above) Is she an early version of Demeter? One name Potnia of Sitos (Mistress of Grain) could be an epithet for Demeter
  • Mater Thea (ma-te-re te-i-ja) “Mother Goddess” or “Mother of the Gods”, possibly Gaia or Rhea? 
  • Manasa (ma-na-sa) An unknown goddess with the same name as a Hindu deity
  • Preswa (?) (pe-re-swa) a dove goddess, possibly an early version of Persephone
  • Wanasse (?) (wa-na-so-i) “The Two Queens”, possibly Demeter and Persephone?
  • Wanax (wa-na-ka-te) “The King”, a possibly epithet of Zeus?
  • Trisheros (ti-ri-se-ro-e) “Thrice Hero”, an ancestor cult?

There are many more mysterious names, mostly thought to be epithets or local deities, but since so little is known about them I won’t list them all here.

Offerings and Administration

As I said above, these tablets record the movement of goods to shrines, so what sort of thing was being given?

We see small quantities of honey, wine and oil (sometimes perfumed) which were presumably for libations. From the existence of rhyta and receptacles like tripods, we can assume that libations were something that happened in the Bronze Age. Oil is sometimes listed as “for anointing” which could be an offering or could simply be for maintaining wooden statues in the humid Mediterranean heat. Oil is also listed to be used to anoint textiles in one tablet from Pylos.

Textiles are another common votive and they’re listed among supplies needed for banquets. Votive cups and bowls appear frequently as well: in one tablet from Pylos alone 4 gold cups and 8 gold bowls are divided among different shrines. Foodstuffs, such as figs, barley, flour and wine, are also mentioned in a particular series of 18 tablets from Knossos, which seems to be for a particular ritual. The commodities mentioned in this series are largely either luxurious or linked to a prestigious trade (namely perfumery and textile production). It’s been suggested that this is a sort of “first fruits” harvest ceremony.

Animals are another common commodity. Sheep, cows, and pigs are among the animals that appear in the tablets (Linear B uses different symbols to denote male and female animals, presumably so that breeding stock could be monitored, and animals given to the gods are no exception). Since burnt animal remains have been found at the palaces, we can assume that some of these beasts were intended for sacrificial banqueting.

Finally, there are the men and women listed as being distributed to the shrines. These are the most controversial reference that, along with possible archaeological evidence, has lead to sensationalist accounts of human sacrifice. In the same tablet from Pylos I mentioned earlier, the one with the gold cups and bowls, 2 men and 8 women are listed as being given to the deities’ shrines. Why? Were they sacrifices? Were they slaves? We honestly don’t know. I’m inclined to think they were slaves rather than sacrifices, given how vehemently archaic and classical writers were against human sacrifice, but there is still a small possibility that in a time of crisis it could have happened.

If you’re interested in reading more, here are some interesting books, articles and transliterations of the tablets:
Searchable tablet database
Article about palace administration and religion
Article about religious syncretism
Article about offerings which I used heavily in writing this
List of Mycenaean deities on Wikipedia
List of deities and translation of the Pylos tablet mentioned above
Book about Religion in the Bronze Age
Extract from a book mentioning possibly human sacrifice

Next in the series will probably be about Minoan religion.