The mountaintop shrines of Mount Juctas in Archanes, Crete are situated on twin peaks, which may have symbolized breasts. Ancient shrines on the northern peak date from 2200 BCE until at least the end of the Ariadnian (Minoan) period in 1450 BCE. A crevice in the rock was filled with offerings of pottery, clay images of women and men in ritual dress, diseased bodies and body parts, sheep and cattle, and other objects. Excavations to a depth of 13 meters did not reach the bottom layers. Many offerings had been burned, suggesting that the objects were first thrown into fire and then dropped into the crevice. People who climbed the mountain for the festivals would have spilled over both peaks and there may have been shrines as well as fires on both of them.
With lack of imagination, archaeologists often write that worship in mountaintop shrines in Crete began when the king ascended the mountain to survey his realm. This ignores the fact that people are like goats and will climb anything if they can. Bones provide evidence of domesticated sheep, goats, and cattle in Crete long before there were kings. Surely shepherds climbed Mount Juctas before any kings did.
The idea that mountains are for kings also ignores the fact that there are no kings in Crete today, no realms to be surveyed, and yet the people of Archanes still ascend the mountain for the summer festival known as the Transfiguration of Christ on August 5th and 6th. A church called Afendis Christos or Christ the Lord on the southern peak of Juctas is the destination of current pilgrims. Today the uneven dirt road recently cut into the mountain is clogged with cars (only) during the festival. Continue reading “Mountain Mother, I Hear You Calling by Carol P. Christ”